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ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS, 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE OF THE 
SIXTH CENTURY; 



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BY 



MRS. ALGERNON KINGSFORD. 



WITH TWEHTT-F01T8 ILLITSTS&TIOHS. 



JAMES PARKER AND CO. 

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PREFACE. 



T^HESE Stories — all of which, save that which 
occupies the chief place on the title-page, have 
already appeared in various magazines — are now for 
the first time collected together and published under 
my name. 

And since it has been supposed by some who 
saw " Rosamunda" in manuscript, that the legendary 
verses and rhymes introduced into its pages were 
obtained by me from extraneous sources, it may 
not perhaps be deemed ill-advised to admit, that, 
whether for praise or for blame, I alone am re- 
sponsible for their existence. 

In concluding, it is my pleasant duty to acknow- 
ledge the kindness and courtesy of the proprietors 
of ** Macmillan's Magazine," " London Society," ** The 
Churchman's Companion," and the " Penny Post," to 
whom I am indebted for permission to reprint the 
stories which originally saw the light in those pe- 
riodicals. 

NINON KINGSFORD. 



HiNTON Hall, Shrewsbury, 
New Year s Day ^ 1875. 



K •'■ 



= :'t 




4 INTRODUCTION. 

famine ravaged the land before and around them, and still 
new herds of invaders followed, expelled, and routed their 
fierce predecessors, preying like savage beasts on their own 
kind. Distinctive titles applied by authors of that distracted 
age to several of the barbarian princes, mark the horror and 
dread which they inspired among the civilized nations. Epi- 
thets such as " The Scourge of the Lord," " The Destroyer of 
the peoples," are continually employed in contemporary re- 
cords to designate these formidable chieftains. Beneath the 
blow of their irresistible battle-axe, the Roman power 
which had queened it so long over the kingdoms, sank 
and perished. New blood was infused into the veins of 
the world, and the old modes of government, policy and 
thought were swept from their foundation. An age of 
devastation, conflict, and excitement, shook the continent 
of Europe from end to end, and in a brief span changed 
its whole face and spirit. Art, science, and learning fell 
into disrepute among the laity ; all skill save that of arms 
was reckoned contemptible ; and deeds of the wildest daring, 
or of the cruellest revenge received the praise due to virtue 
and courage. It is therefore no matter for wonder that 
in the history of these turbulent centuries, when human 
life was valued only in respect of physical strengfth and 
prowess, when hatred, ambition, love, and vengeance tore 
the hearts of men with their keenest fangs, when woman- 
hood knew no soilness and manhood no remorse, many 
a strange adventure and wild pathetic romance are found 
interwoven with details of rapine and conquest, — like tears 
upon a blood-stained page ; stray chords of eolian music 
borne to our ears by the blast of the angry storm-wind. 

Courtly poets and minnesingers of old days perpetuated 
the memory of romances such as these in their songs 
and impromptu rhymes, some of which lived into succeed- 
J^g ages, and finally incorporated themselves as popular 
legends, either to take lasting hold of the minds of men 
among other grim and sad realities of the past, or to 
fade away into the region of mythical story and national 
folk-lore. 

Chief among the mighty names of the Teutonic heroes, 
and foremost in the annals of those wild and warlike episodes 



INTRODUCTION. 5 

which even so late as the reign of Charlemagne, the German 
minstrels still continued to celebrate in song, we find the 
name of the renowned Scandinavian warrior Alboin, and 
the story of the Gothic Princess, — proud and beautiful 
Rosamunda. 

And it may be observed by way of tribute to the art 
of poetry, that we owe almost all our esoteric knowledge 
of this disturbed but important era in the formation and 
destiny of Europe, to the individual romances preserved 
by itinerant bards and monkish rhymers; so true it is 
that the biography of one great man or woman of an age 
presents a better picture of its politics, events, and manners, 
than the most minute and exhaustive general history. 

Let us, then, eschewing further preface, employ the power 
which these poetic chroniclers have placed in our hands, and 
annihilate time and space by aid of the only magic wand 
which modern science knows, to reproduce, as on the table 
of a camera obscura, some few scenes of an old and terrible 
drama, first written with no inventive pen and sober ink, 
but with warm earnest blood at the point of many a terrible 
sword. 




CHAPTER I. 

|T was the first watch of a certain summer night in the 
year of our Lord 564. A fair, bright moon had risen 
over the ancient city of Sirmium, on the banks of the 
river Savus in Pannonia, a city Roman in name and in 
architecture, but now inhabited and governed by a fierce 
tribe of the Gothic race, the pagan Gepidae. The broad 
paved streets, across which here and there were flung the 
black shadows of projecting porticoes, resounded no more 
with the sharp clang of Roman arms, nor did the sweet full 
song of Christian praise awake any longer the echoes of 
yonder marble - columned temple. Instead of these, the 
step of the barbarian Swede trod the thoroughfares, the flat 
blade of his rude battle-axe glinted under the white light, 
and snatches of wild hymns in praise of Odin or of Thor 
disturbed at intervals the serenity of the soft evening air. 
For the Gepidae, singular in this respect among their kindred, 
still clung with a hardy fidelity to the faith of their early 
northern sires. Christianity had ratified its triumph in the 
world long since, through the conversion of the Emperor 
Constantine ; and the great convocation held at Nice in 
325, had secured the recognition of the Catholic Church as 
the only true institution of Almighty God. But as it is 
in these days, so it was then. Catholicity failed to content 
the whole world. Heresies without number sprang up among 
the nations, and the Christians, who before their emancipation 
had contended only with pagan persecutors, now found them- 
selves attacked and challenged by their own brethren, inso- 
much that in a short time the dissension within tlie camp be- 
came as grievous as ever the conflict with secular authorities 
and heathen rule had proved in older days. At the time 
of which we write, Arianism was the most popular and 
widely-spread of these heretical outgrowths from the parent 
tree; and it was perhaps rather complimentary than other- 
wise to the Church Catholic and Apostolic, that nearly all 
the rough and bloodthirsty hordes which first ravaged and 
then occupied central Europe, when time and the pressure 
of association had obliged them to abandon their hereditary 
creed, disdained the pure milk of the Word as too refined 
and delicate a potion for their spiritual appetites, and adopted 
in preference the theological vagaries of Arius. The Gepida), 



ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS. 7 

however, as we have seen, were, even in the latter part of the 
sixth century, still staunch to the old Gods. At once the 
proudest and the frankest of the barbaric clans, they scorned 
the pretence of conversion to any new beliefs, with good 
reason deeming the warlike religion of the Norse better fitted 
than the mild doctrines of a saintlier faith, to that adven- 
turous and pitiless course of life which it was their pleasure 
to pursue. So their altars still smoked to Odin the Hero, and 
still they swore their most solemn vows before the shrine of 
the terrible Three, the changeless and cold-hearted Nornir ; 
and ever at their festivals the mead-cup was emptied to the 
honour of the immortal dwellers in Asgard, and to the spirits 
of the valiant warriors feasting in the Valhalla of the gods. 

To-night the gods were the theme of song in the pavilion 
of the Gepide king. He and his followers were encamped 
outside the city walls of Sirmium, for there had been a battle 
between the Gepidae and their rivals, the Winili, or Lango- 
bards with whom they were at feud, and the Langobards had 
gained the victory. But the vanquished were a hardy race, 
and their ill-fortune did but serve to fortify their fierce and 
stedfast spirit. Death they dreaded not, and extinction it- 
self was a slight evil in their eyes when compared with the 
shame of surrender to a foe, or the bitterness of relinquish- 
ing the chance of vengeance. So they comforted themselves 
with the prospect of speedy retaliation, and pledged them- 
selves, as they wiped their blood-stained axes, to seek no 
rest and beget no heirs until they had humbled Audoin, the 
prince of the victorious tribe. Therefore, when their corselets 
were doffed and the shields were laid aside in the tents, 
a great feast was held in the pavilion of Turisend the Gepide 
chief, and many were the mighty warriors assembled about 
the board ; but the face of the royal host was sad, and his 
courtiers ate and drank in silence, for the feast they kept 
that night was a feast of Death. 

Eighty years of wild and martial life had knotted the brow 
and whitened the long beard of king Turisend, and his figure, 
though grand and sinewy as became his race and his station, 
was gaunt in its outline like that of an ^ancient forest-tree that 
has weathered many angry storms. Grim of aspect though 
he was, the face of the old chieftain was not devoid of that 
strange pathos which we are wont to find in the features of 
the aged, and the grey eyes, that shifted to and fro so rest- 
lessly under their shaggy overhanging fringes, were softened 
at times with a haze like that of tears. For the youngest son 
of King Turisend lay dead on the battle-field at Asfeld far 
away, and the heart of the old man was heavy for the sake 
of the youth who had been his pride and his best beloved. 

Suddenly, in the midst of the silent guests uprose a tall 



8 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS : 

stalwart Goth, with bare brown arms and neck, round which 
were ornaments of gold. And the tones which rolled from 
his massive throat were deep as echoes of thunder from the 
bosom of a cavern. 

" King Turisend," he said, " and ye his warriors, who feast 
with him to-night before the gods, g^ve heed to me the 
minstrel Thorsen, for the spirit of the dwellers in Asgard 
has come upon me, filling my veins with fire, that this night 
I may sing in your ears a song of counsel and prophecy 
at the bidding of Odin the Mighty, Destroyer of armies, 
Avenger of the Gothic race !" 

And straightway all the warriors at the king's table leapt 
to their feet and shouted together, 

" It is well said ! Give ear to the scalder Thorsen, the son 
of Knud, and to the prophecy of Odin the Hero, the Avenger 
of men!" So the king called a page, and bade him fetch 
a harp for the bard ; and Thorsen swept its sonorous strings 
with his great broad hands, on which the corded sinews 
shewed like the gnarled branches of a leafless oak, and anon 
he lifted his mighty voice and sang his inspired rhyme. 

" One even at his palace gate. 
Like a marble column grand and tall, 
Odin the War-god, the Hero ^ood. 
Crisp was his hair and red as blood, 
And his ample chest was broad and straight 
As a city wall ! 

'^ North and south he spread his hands 
Over all the Gothic lands ; 
Over camp, and moor, and glen 
Stretched his mighty arms asunder 
Far as their embrace could reach, 
And like thunder 
In the van of arm^d men 
Was the stirring of his speech. 



<t 



*I am the Hero- King of old, 
Odin the Lord of Death, the Strong ; 
And in my courts of gold 
Revel and rite I hold, 
Banquet and song ! 
For there 

Each in his brazen chair. 
My warrior sons who fell in fight 
Feast at my board to-night ! 



'' ' But apart in that vast hall 
Nearest to Odin's throne, 
Stands the chief seat of all 

Vacant, alone ! 
Never was there hero meet 
Yet to fill that royal seat. 
Never yet have human feet 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 

Those bright steps ascended ; 
Yet must I find me one 
Worthy to rule my feast 
Ere night be ended, 
Ere in the fruitful east 
Reddens the sun ! 

** * Thus above the Gothic lands 
Spread I my hands ; 
Thus from the south and north 
Call I my children forth ; 
Ye who have souls of flame, 

Sons of a mighty Sire, 
Ye whom the thirst for fame 

Quickens like fire, 
Chiefs, whose undaunted souls • 
Odin alone controls, 

Hear and obey ; 
Dire the gift I ask, 
God-like the mighty task, 

God-like will 1 repay ! 

".* For by these ruddy hairs. 
Red with ten thousand wars, 
Odin, whom Heaven adores, 
Odin the Hero swears ; 
He shall be counted meet 
That most exalted seat 
Who to my throne shall bring 
Deadliest offering I 
Over my solemn feast 
He shall be chosen priest. 
Worthy renown and sway. 
God-like the gift I ask, 
God-like the mighty task, 
Like a God I repay !' 

** Thus, with his arms asunder, 
Cloud-like and grand, 
Over all the northern land 
Odin rolled his voice in thunder ; 
And from the south and north 
Slowly his sons came forth 

One by one ; 
While in the amethyst 
Splendour of sunset mist 

Sank the sun. 

" Then to their sire's feet 
Deadly gifts the heroes bore, 
Wine that slays by smooth deceit, 
Gold for bribes, and iron for war ; 
But never a word and never a breath 
Parted the lips of the Lord of Death. 

" Silent evermore and dim. 
Dread of form and vast of limb, 
Odin sat unmoved and grim : 



lO ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

None of all his sons had grace 
Worthy that exalted place, 
Sadly, with averted face, 

Passed they all away, 
None was found to rule the feast, 
And already in the east 

Dawn was gray. 

" Then against the sky behold 
Moved a shape of awful seeming. 
Fair and tall, with hair of gold 
Do^\•n its marble bosom streaming. 
Red its slender hands with blood, 
Cold its eyes with bitter hate ; 
Pale as stone and proud it stood, 
Terrible as Fate. 

** Rose the mighty God, and straightway 
Bending from his brazen gateway 
Spoke with swift and bated breath : 

* Who art Thou, — more dread than Odin ? 
Art thou mortal, — art thou human ?* 

* Yea,' she said, * an angry Woman 

Stands before thee, Lord of Death I* 

" Loudly then, as rolls the thunder, 
Odin laughed with triumph dread, 
And with both his giant hands 
Whirled the brazen gates asunder ! 

* Enter thou, my child,' he said, 

* Thou my best beloved art. 
For the gift thy Lord demands 
is the hate within thy heart ! 
Nothing knows the mighty Odin, 
Curse divine or vengeance human. 
Rage of God or mortal foeman. 
Deadly as the wrath of woman I' 

" Thus for the heroes' feast 
Odin found a ruler meet ; 
And the champion's golden seat 

Thus was won, 
Ere in the fruitful east 

Broke the sun l" 

The song was ended, and as the minstrers hand dropped 
from the strings of the harp, a low murmur arose among 
his audience. No one applauded, for the rhapsody was re- 
garded by most of those present as a prophetic inspiration 
from a divine source, as, indeed, Thorscn himself had declared 
it ; and to the less reverent of the company the sentiments 
set forth by the song were somewhat distasteful. One or 
two old veterans of the battle-field gnawed their grey beards 
in silence, indignant that either god or mortal should have 
presumed to assert thus emphatically the superiority of femi- 
nine over male malignity. But as Thorsen yet stood erect 
in his place, the fervour which had prompted his minstrelsy 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. II 

still warm on his rugged brow, the eyes of all the guests 
moved with one accord towards the entrance of the pavilion. 
For there, one shapely hand raised high to push aside the 
heavy folds of the tent canvas, stood King Turisend's fair 
grand-daughter, Rosamunda. Her form was tall and ma- 
jestic, passing the common height of woman-kind, and her 
bare rounded arms displayed such muscular development 
as no princess in Europe now-a-days can boast. Her hair, 
coarse in fibre and ruddy-gold in hue, streamed in crisp 
wavy masses to her waist, and about her head sparkled 
a bright circlet, significant of her noble station. Rosamunda's 
was not that high-bred type of beauty which in later times 
adorned the royal courts— delicate pink and white loveliness, 
with all the bloom, the sweetness and the fragility of the 
blush-rose, — but rather the grand outline of shape and the 
splendid cast of features which one imagines to have cha- 
racterized Semiramis and Cleopatra ; and which, if tales be 
true, is yet found in the women of some wild tribes. 

"Rosamunda!" cried the old king. It was the first out- 
spoken word which had been heard since the cessation of 
the song. And as if the utterance of that single name dis- 
solved a spell, the guests with one impulse aroused them- 
selves from meditation, and besought their chief that the 
princess might enter the pavilion. 

" Come hither, my child," quoth Turisend, mildly ; " sit thee 
here at my right hand, and drink from my cup. What 
brought thee to our tent to-night ?*' 

"1 stood alone in the moonlight without," she answered 
him, "and I heard the song of Thorsen the bard. My lord, 
take heart, the prophecy of Odin will not deceive." 

"Alack, daughter!" sighed the white-haired king, looking 
fondly upon her, ** when brave warriors fail to conquer, and 
iron harness to resist, when sword, and helm, and shield avail 
not to strengthen fierce hearts, what can the fair soft fingers 
of a woman do to avenge a nation disgraced ?" 

Rosamunda cast down her eyes. 

"My father's sire," she said, "needs not that I should tell 
him how many and how strange are the chances of warfare." 

"Nay, child," responded the aged chieftain, mournfully 
shaking his long beard, " for have I not this day beheld the 
death of thy brave uncle, my dear son Thurismund ? Well 
and valiantly he fought, a true prince of the Gothic race 
that knows not fear of foe, but neither did his daring nor 
the might of Odin avail to save us from defeat. We are 
fallen !— fallen !" 

"Alas, my Turisend!" groaned a husky old warrior, in- 
fected with the melancholy of his liege-lord, "times were 
otherwise with us when Ardarich, thy great ancestor, led 



12 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

our fathers to combat against the tyrannous Hun! Were 
not the Gepidae — the proud invincible Gepidae — first of the 
Gothic race to cast off that hateful yoke ? Ours was a nation 
of victors then, brooking no master save our own, — and now, 
woe the day ! — we are like to become servants of Audoin 
the Langobard! Chances of warfare, these, princess, — the 
chances of all human things !" 

Rosamunda's face brightened with new colour. 

"Aye," she said, earnestly, "but the poet would have us 
know that chance is powerless to cheat or assuage the 
hatred of a wrathful woman ! Her vengeance strikes as strike 
the lightnings of the high gods, — most true, most sure, un- 
swerving, and unmoved by lapse of time. She, while in- 
auspicious seasons pass, remains ever fixed in her purpose, 
patient and inflexible as heaven, eagle-eyed for the oppor- 
tunity she desires. Your bribes may fail you, your fire may 
be quenched, the hand that guides your sword may err, the 
steel may snap asunder; a thousand fatalities may check 
the rage or baulk the skill of men. But he who dares 
a woman's anger grips the homy palm of Death himself, 
yea, even though she wear sweet smiles upon her lips, sa- 
luting that doomed man with words of love and favour. 
None of her wiles shall be sponsors for her faith ; year after 
year she will hunt down her prey, till at last her hour comes ; 
she marks it well, she strikes, — the man she hates is crushed 
to powder. What she conceives shall surely issue in her 
deed ; nor gold, nor prayers, nor touch of children's lips, nor 
terror of steel shall buy compassion of her, if she be proud 
or injured, or oppressed. No guerdon which men or gods can 
pay shall prevail to abate a tiny measure of that woman's 
vengeance, though to wreak it she slay a hero. Her hand 
will not refrain from mixing the poison-cup because she hears 
her sucking child is dead, nor will her resolute fingers quiver 
on the dagger's hilt albeit kingdoms fall, and priests and pro- 
phets blaspheme their gods !" 

Scarce had the princess pronounced these last words, her 
eyes dilated and her voice powerful with emotion, than there 
was heard the dull trampling of many feet upon the sward 
outside the tent, and the hand of a man suddenly raised the 
drapery which covered the opening to the pavilion. Rosa- 
munda started from the board, and the chieftains about her 
rose uneasily. A tall and stately figure, habited as a warrior, 
entered the banquet -tent, and with uncovered head ap- 
proached the king. The stranger, though but a youth in 
years, moved with so haughty a gait, and wore so ferocious 
an ajspect, that the pages who stood by the chair of Turisend 
involuntarily recoiled, and shrank, with blanched cheeks, into 
the darkest corners available. Forty armed men flocked 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 1 3 

into the pavilion behind the unexpected visitant, following 
him in well-ordered silence, as vassals wait upon their lord. 
Dignified and calm, the venerable Turisend arose and fast- 
ened his dim eyes earnestly on the face of the young man 
before him. 

" Thou art Alboin, prince of the Langobardi," said he, in 
deep constrained tones, "thou art the slayer of my son 
Thurismund. It was thine arm that struck him to the earth, 
thy spear that cleft his heart ! Wherefore comest thou hither 
to his father > " 

"King Turisend," responded the Lombard heir, "thou 
sayest truly ; and it is the deed whereof thou speakest that 
brings me into thy presence to-night. My father, the mighty 
Audoin, holds triumphant festival with his chiefs, rejoicing 
over the honour our arms have won, and over the fall of 
thy princely son, whose life the Christians' God delivered 
into these unworthy hands! But, albeit the glory of our 
successes on the plain of Asfeld be thus due in so great 
a measure to me, my father's warriors in vain besought 
him to permit me a place beside his own at the feast of 
victory. ' My chiefs are not unmindful,' said my royal 
sire, ' of those wise and honourable customs which our great 
ancestors inflexibly observed, and which I also will retain 
inviolate. Whatever merit or prowess may distinguish a 
prince of Scandinavian blood, whatever fame his skill or 
courage may have earned, ye know well that he cannot 
be admitted to sit at the table of the king until he shall 
have solemnly received his arms from a foreign and a royal 
hand. Go then, my son,' he added, 'depart in accordance 
with the dictates of our national law, and seek forthwith 
the honour thou lackest at some neighbouring court.' Thus 
my father dismissed me ; and I, choosing from among his 
guests these forty companions of my fortunes in arnis, sped 
hither straightway to thee, most venerable host, since in 
very sooth thy royal pavilion for the nonce stands nearer 
our own than any other, and I am in haste to take that 
promised seat at our board, which cannot be mine till I am 
invested with the rights of manhood. Do thou then, O 
Turisend, as becomes thine exalted station and warlike 
renown, extend to Alboin the favour he demands! As 
thy suppliant, and not as thine enemy, I present myself 
to-night in thy royal presence, to crave of thy courtesy 
a boon which no warrior of regal lineage dare for shame's 
sake refuse to one of equal rank. I kneel for thy grace, 
noble Gepide, — delay not the performance of thy part in 
the ceremony ! " 

So speaking, the heir of the Langobard monarchy sank 
upon his knee before the father of his victim, with eyelids 



14 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

lowered and head abased, counterfeiting the gait of a de- 
corous humility, although more than one spectator of the 
scene perceived a scornful and defiant curl upon his lip, 
which betrayed the true character of his emotions, and 
of the motives that had really impelled him thus to out- 
rage the sorrowful court of King Turisend. That aged 
chieftain of a pagan race proved himself at least more 
generous and refined of heart than his Christian visitor. 
For, as we have seen, all the Scandinavian tribes which 
had settled in Lombardy professed some form, orthodox 
or heterodox, of the new creed, and the Langobard people 
over whom the fierce Audoin reigned, had long adopted 
the Arian perversion of the faith. Nor did this difference 
of religious opinion between the Winili and the Gepide 
nations tend to mitigate the bitterness of hatred which 
warlike rivalry had enkindled between them. The con- 
verts, albeit themselves in a state of enmity with Mother 
Church, regarded the adorers of Odin and Thor with all 
the disdainful rancour of theological pride ; and the fol- 
lowers of the northern gods, returning scorn with scorn, 
contemned the renegades as a perjured and time-serving 
generation, unworthy the grand lineage and the ancient 
country whence they had sprung. 

Angry reflections on this fruitful theme, awakened no 
doubt by the words of Alboin's address, swept through 
the perturbed minds of his hearers, and many a wrinkled 
brow in the assembly deepened its furrows bodingly above 
eyes that sparkled fire as the young man ceased speaking. 
For a brief space there was a pause, pregnant with awe, 
while the old Gepide king wrestled silently with the black 
wrath which rose in his desolate soul, and then, making 
no attempt to raise the petitioner from his knees, he gave 
answer thus in low, stem tones : — 

"Prince, the favour and the hospitality thou claimest at 
our hands we freely bestow. Our honour demands that 
we receive this visit peaceably and in good faith ; where- 
fore I bid thee welcome to our court and solemn festival. 
But, my son, where are the arms with which I must invest 
thee f Let thy followers produce them !" 

Scarcely were the words uttered than Alboin suddenly 
leapt from the ground, and turned his face upon the forty 
warriors who had entered the tent behind him ; and as 
though the action were recognised among them for a pre- 
concerted signal, every right hand in the company sought 
the sword-hilt ominously, and every voice responded with 
one accord in a deep rough murmur : — 

" The trophy ! the trophy ! " 

Again the eyes of Alboin moved to the countenance of 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. I5 

his royal host, and extending towards him both his mailed 
arms and empty hands, he cried aloud in ringing tones : 
" King of the Gepidae, thou hearest how my brave com- 
panions remind me that only half of my errand to thee 
is yet accomplished. The laws of our court and nation 
demand that I bear to my father's feet for token and for 
trophy of my valour, the helmet, the shield, and the sword 
of the man I have slain ! It is with the arms of thy son 
that thou must invest thy suppliant ; it is with his breast- 
plate that my heart must be covered, his crest that must 
surmount my brow ! Such is the sum of my petition, and 
of King Audoin's command, and such the favour, which, 
well I know, O Turisend, thy courtesy and thine honour 
will righl royally accord !" 

Words like these, spoken with so much audacity of manner 
and of phrase on an occasion of such sorrow and disappoint- 
ment to the Gepidae, were in the highest degree irritating 
to the proud spirits of their chiefs. A clamour of indig- 
nant expostulation arose from the throng which surrounded 
Turisend ; and many of his followers, but for the obedient 
love and veneration they bore him, would straightway have 
thrown themselves upon the overbold intruder, like eager 
hounds upon a wild boar. This the old man well understood, 
as, looking round upon their strained and hungry faces, he 
waved them back with a steady hand. 

" Norsemen," he said, addressing his own people rather than 
the Scandinavian prince who stood before him, — "ye know 
that in the years which are past, Wacho the predecessor of 
Audoin slew with his own hand Tatus, lord of these Winili, 
and Ildechis the only son of the dead man fled hither to me 
for refuge. And Wacho demanded him of me, that he might 
die as his father had died, threatening me and mine with 
implacable and powerful enmity if I should refuse to deliver 
up my guest. Then I called you, my chiefs, to judge between 
us in a national assembly, and I bade you decide whether it 
were wise in us for so small a matter, to risk the wrath of 
Wacho and of the Winili. And all of you answered me with 
one consent : — * It is better, O Turisend, to suffer annihilation, 
than to violate the laws of hospitality !' Goths, those words 
of yours were well and nobly spoken ; be once again as brave 
and as just ! Another son of the Winili comes to beg a favour 
at our hands, and if his request sound harshly in our ears, 
it is not because he asks a thing amiss, but because our 
hearts are wounded. Who of you all around me suffers 
so much as I, who have this day looked upon the face of 
my dead son.^ But we, who are men, must not endure the 
dominion of a childish spleen. Alboin does but ask his 
lawful guerdon, and Turisend will not withhold a spoil so 



1 6 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

rightly won. Go, therefore, one of you, my chiefs, and bid 
my son Kunimond bring hither his brother's arms." 

Then in the midst of a sullen hush, one tall gaunt figure 
arose and quitted the pavilion to do the will of Turisend, 
and none of the Gothic veterans spoke a word or moved 
a hand until the messenger returned. With him came Ku- 
nimond, the king's only remaining son, father of the beau- 
tiful Rosamunda ; a man of ripe and vigorous years, stalwart 
in limb, huge of stature, and like all the rest of the Gepide 
chiefs, bareheaded. In either hand he carried the still blood- 
stained weapons of his brother Thurismund, — helm and targe, 
sword and corselet, and passing proudly by the heir of the 
Lombards, laid his burden at the feet of the aged king. 

"Thou hast commanded, my father," he said, bending low, 
" and I have done thy bidding." 

" Son Kunimond," returned the royal Goth, " the gods ap- 
prove thy doing. And now I am glad that thou earnest not 
hither sooner." 

"Father," said the younger man, "the kingly office which 
thou holdest compelled thy presence at this feast of death ; 
but as for me, I sought rather the stillness of mine own 
tent, for my heart was heavy in my bosom, and I cared not 
to drink wine." 

" Foolishly spoken, dull Goth!" muttered the deep voice 
of a Langobard behind Alboin. " Wine in the skull makes 
mirth in the breast!" 

"Barest thou jest with a foe?" cried Kunimond furiously, 
his fierce blood breaking over his face like flame. " Son of 
a hound ! I tell thee I will make a goblet of thy dog's head, 
and drink thine own blood out of it*!" Uttering this taunt, 
he sprang towards a battle-axe which lay near at hand upon 
a pile of arms in a corner of the pavilion, but Turisend, calm 
and dignified still, interposed a stem rebuke. 

" Son, thy vengeance forgets alike mine honour and thine 
own rank. Threats such as this which thou hast uttered are 
oftenest fulfilled upon him who makes them." 

Kunimond paused and stood silent, trembling in every 
massive limb of his body under the force of arrested passion, 
but the thirsty heart of Alboin leapt high at the words, and 
he laid them up in his memory for a day of yet completer 
triumph and crueller achievement. And Rosamunda noted 
the vicious gleam that flashed in the steely, scornful eyes of 
the Lombard prince, and straightway, out of her untempered 
soul arose a wild and desperate anger, swift and strong as 
the biting sea-wind that rises out of the tameless deep at 

■ The Langobards, says Gibbon, propagated the belief that their beads were 
formed like the heads of dogs, and that they drank the blood of their vanquished 
enemieSb Hence the significance of Kunimond's retort. 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 1 7 

night. Strange and awful that the first sharp emotion 
which ever entered her fair bosom should be the passion, 
not of love, but of hate, — hate in all the mighty intensity 
and fiery impatience of a sudden and overwhelming desire. 
So fierce, so potent was the intoxication of her wrath, that 
as she stood and faced the man who had evoked it, her whole 
being sickened with revulsion, and half unconsciously she 
extended her tremulous hands, seeking some human support. 
Dizzily the torch -lights of the pavilion rocked before her 
eyes, the murmur of voices round her concentrated itself 
into a thin sharp whisper, and the agitated faces of the 
warriors fluctuated and mingled like the faces of phantoms 
in a fever-dream, till with a low sigh she recovered herself, 
touching the hand of her father. 

" Rosamunda ! why camest thou hither ?** 

But she answered nothing ; she had no senses save for one. 
Alboin knelt again at the feet of Turisend, his own war- 
harness laid aside on the ground, and his limbs invested with 
the spoils of his victory, a demon incarnate in the iron frame 
which once had held the beating heart of Thurismund the 
Gepide. A shout of satisfaction arose from the forty Winili 
as their prince sprang deftly to his feet, belted and helmed ; 
but the Gothic chieftains gave no response in sound. Bitter- 
est rage, like deepest love, is mute. 

The ceremony over, Turisend beckoned his self-invited 
guests to the banquet - table, with an austere courtesy of 
which they were not slow to avail themselves. One after 
one the Gepidae resumed their seats, each tacitly taking 
his command from the eyes of the aged monarch, till but 
one place was unoccupied, — the stool upon which the ill-fated 
Thurismund had been wont to sit beside his father's royal 
chair. One man alone in the company yet remained stand- 
ing, nor was the delay made without intention or significance. 
Alboin still waited by the side of his host, watching with 
tiger-like acuteness of gaze the shadow of contending pas- 
sions that strove together in the old veteran's rugged face. 
The Gepidae perceived the additional insult designed, and 
one of them, bolder or more privileged than the others, 
rose to yield his own seat to the Langobard hero. The 
action recalled Turisend to a vivid sense of the crisis ; the 
hard ice of pride which had restrained the tide of his sorrow 
broke up beneath the stroke ; — he raised his eyes, and looked 
full at the slayer of his child. That look Alboin answered 
as none but a savage could have done, — he seated himself 
in Thurismund's vacated place. Utterly unmanned, the poor 
old king turned away his head, and laid his quivering hands 
upon the arm of Kunimond, who sat at the right of the 

C 



l8 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

throne. Tender remembrances, futile regrets, unutterable 
loathing rushed into his mind ; the father was no longer 
a king, nor the aged man a warrior; tears darkened the 
sight which time had already dimmed ; the staunch old 
heart found vent at last for its grief in words. 

"Ye gods!" he cried with faltering lips, "how dear is that 
place, — how hateful is that person !" 

Like the first blast of a long-brooding storm, the passionate 
exclamation swept the banquet-table, and provoked to speech 
the choler which devoured the souls of Kunimond and his 
companions. With a pagan oath the Gothic prince brought 
his giant fist as furiously down upon the oaken board before 
him as though he struck a Langobard in the forehead, and 
while the horn -cups reeled and clattered together, cried, 
" By the sinews of Odin and Thor, chieftains I we do ill to 
entertain in this goodly fashion such Christian curs as these ! 
They pollute our meats, they poison our wine, — the very tent 
smells foully of their presence ! Behold their unkempt manes 
and shaggy lengths of beard, look at the white bands with 
which they swathe their crooked legs, and say if they re- 
semble not alike in form and odour the unclean steeds of 
our Sarmatian plains!" 

"Thou hast aptly jested, rude Goth," responded Alboin, 
with ready asperity, "for like wild steeds the Winili can 
kick when they list ! Go, visit the field of Asfeld, and mark 
the spot where thy dainty brother's corpse was trodden to- 
day in the dust beneath our prancing hoofs !" 

Thus the tempest burst, and in a moment the pavilion was 
alive with flashing steel. The Gepidae sprang to their feet, 
the swords of the Winili flew from their scabbards. Impre- 
cations and cries of rage heightened the tumult, and the 
Feast of Death might indeed have doubly justified its name, 
had not the noble Turisend again interfered to save his own 
reputation and the lives of his guests. 

"Depart, I pray you, Langobards !" he cried, raising his 
bare arms above the sea of swaying combatants, " and you, 
my Gepidae, restrain your unseemly anger ! Alboin, I have 
granted thee thy will, I have yielded to thee the trophy and 
the favour thou earnest to seek ; take now thy dismissal from 
a board whereat thou canst sit no longer in safety or in 
honour." 

At the voice of the brave and ancient king the Goths were 
stung with shame, and .hastily the older men stretched forth 
their brawny hands to check the choleric onslaught of their 
younger companions. "Peace, peace!" they shouted, "it is 
the will of Turisend !" 

Then amid the subsiding uproar Alboin stood forward, 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 1 9 

and intrepidly addressed his royal entertainer, his tall robust 
figure gleaming under the ruddy light in the dinted armour 
of Thurismund. 

" King of the Gepidae !" he cried, in a voice like the sound 
of a clarion, and all the pavilion stood hushed to sudden 
stillness, "well and proudly hast thou dealt with me and my 
people to-night ! I own thine honour, though I hate thy 
tribe ! But give me yCt one further grace, and Alboin shall 
be henceforward foe of thine no longer, but friend and staunch 
ally for evermore. Refuse, and I will push my ire and the 
ire of my father's house against thee and thine, until no 
Gepide warrior shall remain alive to say to his peer — 
* Our name and nation have passed away.' 

" I have seen Rosamunda, the daughter of Kunimond, 
present here to-night. Give her to me in marriage, and bind 
the souls of Winili and Gepidae in one !" 

He ceased, and fixing his eyes hard on the face of the 
princess, stepped rapidly to her side and stooped to kiss her 
lips. But the fiery Rosamunda, too horror-stricken for words, 
struck dumbly at him with her scornful hands, and with 
a gesture of supreme abhorrence spat her hatred into his 
smiling face, and fled I 

Rout and confusion followed her. The Gepidae were 
elated and triumphant, the Lombards maddened with the 
sting of insulted pride. Alboin alone prevailed to stem the 
torrent of impending conflict. With many an arrogant threat 
he drew his vassals forth from that fateful pavilion, where in 
his royal seat amid the Babel of arms and shouting, with the 
blood-red glare of the sinking torchlight upon his bowed and 
whitened head, Turisend the Gothic king sat weeping at the 
banquet-table of Death. 



CHAPTER II. 

Days and nights coursed slowly onward in the Gothic 
camp, which yet remained upon the hill slope outside 
the gates of Sirmium ; troublous days of uncertainty and 
watchfulness ; nights of anxious consultation and little rest. 
Turisend, stricken down by age and sorrow, lay sick upon 
his couch in the royal palace within the city, whither 
the Gepide chiefs had borne him, helpless and paralysed, from 
the pavilion which had been the theatre of the stormy scene 
recorded in the last chapter. Kunimond and the Gothic 
army still maintained their post, hourly expectant of the 
reprisal with which the last words of Alboin had so proudly 

c 2 



20 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

menaced them. All night the watch-fires shewed brightly 
against the clear summer sky, and the tall figures of the 
sentinels moved darkly to and fro among the white tents. 
At daybreak and at sunset it was Kunimond*s custom to 
gather the wisest and most skilled of the warriors about him 
on the hill side, whence the distant camp of the Winili could 
be observed, to hold debate on the purpose of the foe, and on 
the surest plan for defeating it, whether by action or by wile. 
From these councils Rosamunda was never absent. Vainly 
had her father sought to hinder her sojourn in the camp ; 
vainly had he endeavoured by entreaty and by argument 
to persuade her that her best and fittest asylum would be 
found in the palace of Sirmium. '* Battle," he had told her, 
" is inevitable, and it may be a battle that will leave few of 
us alive. What wilt thou do amidst the dying and the dead 
when the waters of the Savus are red with blood, and the 
carrion birds darken the air above the corpses ?" And she 
had answered between her teeth, " If I can do nothing else, 
I will at least be a hawk to pick out the dead eyes of Alboin!" 
So he let her abide in the camp, dauntless and stately, 
with that black and bitter anger rankling in her woman's 
heart. And at night, when the fires burned and the sentinels 
kept watch, it was her wont to go out alone under the stars, 
and all night long to pace up and down between the tents 
and the signal-lights. But there were other eyes than those 
of her own people that noted these strange wanderings, 
— eyes impelled by love as hers by hate. For, from an out- 
post of the Langobard encampment, beneath the wing of 
a pine-wood coppice, the slayer of Thurismund watched the 
tents of the Gepidae. There, through many a long hour of 
darkness, the solitary figure waited, leaning against the mas- 
sive trunk of a black-plumed tree, wakeful and sharp-sighted 
as the night-birds upon its branches. Thus it chanced that 
he marked against the depths of transparent sky the outline 
of a woman's form, lithe and majestic, flitting constantly to 
and fro along the ridge of the opposite hill, and he knew 
well, by the fierce desire of love that throbbed with every 
pulse of his body, that the woman he saw was Rosamunda, 
— Rosamunda, who had bewitched him with her wild beauty, 
who had spit upon him in her savage rage, and who even 
now, while he was gazing thus upon her unseen, was medi- 
tating how best to wreak her vengeance upon him ! Then 
a thought came into his head ; a daring, cruel thought, on 
which he at once prepared to act. He resolved to make an 
ambuscade with a few of his trustiest adherents, and at the 
darkest and drowsiest hour of the next night, to take ad- 
vantage of Rosamunda's rambles, and either entrap her by 
foul means, or carry her off by force of arms. Darkest and 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 21 

most Silent of all the night watches was the slow still hour 
before the early dawn. The camp-fires had smouldered 
down to ashes, the sentinels were weary of their monoto- 
nous patrol, the moon had driven her silver galleon ashore 
below the Claudian range. This was the time he chose, 
when the Gepide princess waited alone and sleepless upon 
the edge of a jutting crag, remote from the tents, and 
watched the distant lights grow faint in the camp of the 
Winili. 

Suddenly, as she stood there, something stirred in a thicket 
beneath the height. She listened intently, holding her breath 
hard. It must be a snake dragging itself through the dry 
brittle grass ; a snake, — or a man I 

" Rosamunda !" 

It was but one word spoken in a whisper ; she could catch 
no tone, no inflexion by which to recognise the voice. Was 
it one she knew ?" 

Who calls upon me.?" she demanded, after a pause. 
Speak again, Gepide !" 

But she had already betrayed herself, and the answer she 
asked was not vouchsafed in words. In a moment a soft 
step scaled the crag, a black shape deepened the gloom 
around her. Then she felt the grasp of a man's hands, and 
something fell upon her, shutting out the air and the dim 
remote lights in the camp of the foe, closing thickly about 
her face, and stifling her voice in its heavy folds. Too late, 
she guessed what disaster had befallen her ! . . . 






CHAPTER III. 

Grey and misty, an hour afterwards, the daybreak began 
to strike the crests of the Gothic tents. Warriors who had 
passed the night in broken sleep, in anxious thought, or 
in debate with their comrades, donned their harness and 
went forth to reconnoitre. Kunimond stretched his great 
limbs, devoured his morning's meal, tossed off a cup-full of 
Chian, and sent a messenger to summon his chiefs. " For," 
said he, gruffly, "we waste our time in waiting for these 
lazy WinilL To-day we must give them combat." 

But when the messenger had departed on his errand, 
Kunimond remembered Rosamunda. " She will be angry," 
he thought, " if I bid her not to our council. Moreover her 
ready wit and shrewd advice may serve our dull heads some 
good turn." 



23 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

So he Strode out to his daughter's tent. But there he 
found the nest empty, the robes and the golden fillet that 
marked her rank lying upon the bear-skin which covered 
the ground, and her attendant maid crouching, alarmed and 
abject, by the pillows of the couch. 

"Where is thy mistress, child ?" cried Kunimond. 

** My lord," replied the girl, " I have neither seen nor heard 
of her since midnight. She could not rest, and so went forth 
to walk awhile. And since she came not hither again, I 
thought that she must be with thee." 

Kunimond let the canvas fold of the tent door drop 
from his hand, and stood a minute silent. Far from sus- 
pecting the truth, he concluded only that Rosamunda, ex- 
hausted at length by her long vigil, must have fallen asleep 
upon the soft sward of the hill-slope. But scarcely had this 
idea occurred to him, than there arose in the camp without 
a confused noise of voices, the rattle of arms, and the tramp- 
ling of feet ; a noise that swelled and grew momentarily, 
drawing nearer and nearer to the spot where he stood. 
Looking forth, he saw advancing a crowd of Gepide warriors, 
whose number was constantly augmented by new followers 
from the rows of tents between which the throng passed. 
With the foremost came a Langobard emissary, conspicuous 
by the rolls of white bandage upon his legs, and the ensign 
wrought upon his head-piece. 

" It is a challenge that he bears," thought Kunimond ; 
" Alboin then will fight with us to-day." 

Not a pace from his daughter's tent the band of warriors 
halted, and the voice of the Langobard rang out clear and 
sharp through the expectant hush which sealed the lips of 
his audience. 

" Hail, Kunimond !" he cried, "give me safe conduct before 
I deliver my message ! For the tidings I bring thee are such, 
that when 1 have told them, my life may be in no small peril 
among thy Goths." 

" Speak, herald," responded Kunimond, gloomily, " speak, 
and fear not. We do not war with unarmed men 1" 

Then said the Langobard : " My lord and the leader of the 
Winili, Alboin, son of our king, bade me give the message 
with which he has charged me to none other than thyself, 
O Kunimond ! For he sends thee word that thy daughter, 
the beautiful Rosamunda, lies captive in his royal tent, 
whence no sword nor ransom shall buy her back. Three 
hours since, he bore her away from thy camp by force in 
the darkness, because she scorned his wooing when he would 
have won her like a lover. And now, if thou wilt yield her 
peaceably, my lord will retire from thy frontiers, and leave 
thee and thine in peace ; moreover, there shall be a treaty 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 23 

of alliance between him and thee. But if not, then upon 
thy head shall be the blood of all the Goths whom Alboin 
will slay ; and thou shalt lie in the dust of the valley with 
thy brother Thurismund, and Rosamunda 'shall see thy face 
no more. For the rest, my lord bade me tell thee he is 
a servant of the true God, and intends thy daughter no 
offence save in the bond of Christian wedlock. And now, 
noble Gepide, it is thine to speak ; what reply shall I bear 
from thee to the mighty Alboin ?" 

He ceased ; and in agitated and angry silence the eyes 
and ears of the Goths hung thirstily upon their chief. Red 
flush and the pallor of death swept alternately over Kuni- 
mond's downcast face ; hq gnawed his long yellow moustache, 
and beat his buskined foot upon the ground. At length he 
slowly raised his head and answered shortly : — 

" Say to Alboin, that I and my Gepidae will meet him and 
his dogs in the vale of the Savus at noon to-day." 

But as the last word left his lips, a Goth of splendid build 
and noble gait stepped forward from the ranks of the war- 
riors surrounding Kunimond, and making obeisance, thus 
addressed the prince : — 

" Kunimond, champion of the Gepidae, and ye my peers 
who stand in his presence, I pray you pardon my temerity 
in proffering advice which is unasked. But I beseech my 
prince that he will permit the herald of the Winili to retire 
for a space while I lay before you that which is in my mind." 

Kunimond bent his head in acquiescence, and turning to 
the messenger of Alboin, bade him withdraw for a brief 
interval. "And now," he said, when the Langobard, con- 
ducted by two Gepide guards, had retired, ** unloose thy 
tongue, Helmichis, and shew us this advice of thine." Then 
the Grothic men gathered closely together, and Helmichis 
spoke. 

"Comrades," said he, "it is my counsel that we be not 
over-hasty in this affray. My years do not number those 
which most of you can count, nor do I boast of many scars, 
for I have not yet passed my seventh lustre. Yet, methinks 
that the advice I mean to give you savours of a discretion 
which is worthier a riper age than mine. Thou knowest 
well, O Kunimond, tliat our troops are but weak and pitiful 
when measured by the strength of the enemy. Mighty though 
we be in valour and in hate, we rank but as a handful of men 
before an army of wild beasts. Thou needest not, my prince, 
that I should remind thee of our late defeat, nor of that 
shameful loss which cost the life of Thurismund. Again to 
suffer rout or to flee before these barbarous Scandinavians 
would be a disaster well-nigh fatal to our life as a nation. 
I counsel, therefore, that rather than encounter the superior 



24 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

numbers of the Winili unaided, we send with all speed to 
Cibalae and to Mursa, where some three cohorts of Roman 
soldiery are garrisoned. With them we still hold friendly 
relations; but their emperor, Justinian, secretly mistrusts the 
growing Lombard power, and the policy of the eunuch 
Narses. The troops at Mursa are attached to Belisarius, 
the scourge of the Vandal race, and we shall not solicit 
their succour in vain. Leaged with these men whose nation 
was once so mighty, we cannot miss our triumph, nor fail 
to compel the restitution of Rosamunda. For consider, 
that should we attempt an enterprise against Alboin un- 
assisted, and be overcome, his wrath and his disdain may 
cost our princess both her honour and her life. It is to 
rescue her that we must now contend ; so long as she re- 
mains in the tent of the Langobard, so long we endure an 
intolerable injury and disgrace. In the name of Odin, then, 
let us strike the blow with no uncertain hand! Better to 
delay our reprisal awhile with the assurance of ultimate 
victory, than to hurl ourselves like impulsive children on 
a powerful foe, and again, like children, be humbled and 
dispersed l" 

Thus he spoke, and for a minute none of the throng 
about him uttered a word. Then Kunimond, glancing 
round upon the ring of thoughtful, harassed faces, fetched 
a sigh like that of a man who yields perforce to some bitter 
ordeal of pain that is to save his life, and made response 
in few and earnest phrases. 

** Helmichis, I thank thee. Goths, he hath well said. 
Shall 1 know the taste of meat or the blessing of rest, until 
Rosamunda be given back to me? Who of you will go 
to Mursa on our errand ?** 

So the herald of the Winili was recalled, and dismissed 
in safety to his master, bearing with him the defiance of 
the Goths, and a fierce warning that their vengeance should 
not tarry long. And before the tuft of his helm had dipped 
below the brow of the height, six of the most astute and 
honourable men among the Gepidae were already on their 
way with their message to the Romans at Mursa and Cibalae. 



CHAPTER IV. 

As yet Turisend the king knew not of the loss of 
Rosamunda. The sunset of that fateful day found him 
in the grasp of death. Bare of ornament and rude of fashion 
was the royal chamber, simple and rough the bed of goat- 
skin which supported the nerveless limbs of the aged hero. 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 2$ 

But the Withered face that lay upturned and white on its 
hard unrestful pillows, was grand and patient as the visage 
of a marble Prometheus. Fit ending, fit death-bed for the 
sturdy pagan chief whose greatest joys had ever been found 
upon the battle -plain, and whose eighty years had known 
neither the soft delights of idle civilization, nor the wild 
excesses of a corrupt and luxurious court. Beside the couch 
knelt his only son Kunimond, unhelmed, unarmed, his 
hauberk and quiver upon the ground at his feet ; and in the 
darkness by the portal a drowsy guard kept solitary ward. 

And as the twilight deepened into mystery, and the 
shadows into substance, father and son, with voices half in- 
audible, held converse together for the last time. 

Kunimond knew that the old man's life was ebbing with 
the- day. The loss of his boy, — ^the Benjamin of his heathen 
soul,— the cruel insult which his wounded love had received 
at the hands of Alboin, and the bitter remembrance that the 
treasured arms of the dead Thurismund had become the 
trophy and boast of his enemy, these were thrusts which the 
proud and tender heart of the old warrior could not parry. 
Still, lying there upon his rude and hardy death-bed, the 
feeble tide of his thoughts set all in one current. Some day, 
he told himself, the time of reckoning would surely come, 
and Alboin should fall before the sword of an avenging 
Gepide. Then, recalling painfully every incident of that 
direful banquet-night in the pavilion, he bethought himself 
of the bard Thorsen's inspired verse, and of his fair grand- 
daughter's panegyric upon the power of womanly wrath. 
And his blood for a moment grew warm, and his faint pulse 
throbbed with the hope that perchance by the favour of 
Odin, the prophecy might be fulfilled, and to her it might be 
given to compass the ruin of the man whose heel was set 
on the necks of the Goths. 

So he rolled his grey filmy eyes upon his son, and asked in 
a quavering whisper for Rosamunda. 

*' Let her come to me, Kunimond ! Bid thy vassals fetch 
her hither ! Let me lay my hands but once upon her hair 
of gold, — of gold which no day's sun shall warm and redden 
again for me ! . . . Thou movest not. My son, bring hither 
Rosamunda !" 

The tall figure of the kneeling man quivered. And Turi- 
send, blind with the mists of Death, felt the tremor of the 
bed, and stretched forth his weak and wandering hands 
towards his son. 

"Rosamunda," he repeated, "my grandchild Rosamunda. 
Bring her hither to me before I die !" 

Kunimond bowed his head upon the drapery of the couch, 
and answered in a slow whisper, — 



26 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

" Father, I cannot. My daughter is a captive in the tent 
of Alboin the Langobard." 

And he wept aloud. 

But the old king neither spoke nor stirred again, he lay 
stark and dumb upon the goat-skin, with a rigid face of 
stone, and open sightless eyes, in which the dim light of hope 
and love was quenched for evermore. For the shock of that 
last ill news had stricken him to death, and the staunch old 
pagan soul had gone forth amid the darkness of the night 
to seek the Valhalla of its wild and hardy race. 



CHAPTER v.. 

The messengers of Kunimond sped well. The Romans, 
as Helmichis had prognosticated, were distrustful of the 
Vandal race, and suspicious in particular of the daunt- 
less Alboin, in whom Justinian saw but too clearly the 
future invader of Italy. With the briefest possible delay, 
therefore, the imperial legions garrisoned at Mursa marched 
into Sirmium, filing in martial order past the closed gates 
of the palace wherein the Gothic chieftain lay dead. But 
twelve hours ago the thunder of their even tread and the 
clang of their war-harness would haye thrilled his veins with 
eager hope, and kindled fire in his dying eyes, — and now, were 
his beloved Gepidae to achieve the sovereignty of all the 
world, it would seem less than the play of a little child to the 
spirit that moved beyond the sun ! 

Alboin still continued to make his post of observation 
under the shadow of the pines. And now he started as he 
saw issuing forth from the gates of Sirmium a force which 
he knew to be not that of the Gepidae ; for as file after file 
tramped by into the camp with the regular step and absolute 
silence of perfect discipline, he saw that he had no longer 
Gepidae but Romans against him. Th^re was no time to be 
lost ; hastening back to his camp he roused his sleeping 
warriors, and bade them prepare to start forthwith on their 
retreat to their own capital. 

** Let despatch and stillness be your watchwords," said he, 
"let no sound be heard, no light seen. Once back within 
the walls of Leuphana, we may defy the legions of Rome ! 
Our prize and prisoner, the Gcpide princess, shall lead the 
way, and we, her escort, will follow close." 

So there was no battle in the valley of the Savus the next 
day, for by the dawn the plains which fronted the city of 
Sirmium were bare, and nothing remained to mark the place 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 2/ 

where the Winili had lain, save the blackened circles of their 
extinct watch-fires, and the brown lines of furrowed sod 
which the hoofs of their horses had left along the turf. Then 
began a long and tedious march over the wastes and fen- 
lands of Pannonia, six hundred miles of retreat and pursuit 
through a wild champaign of many devious ways, a land 
which the vagrant Langobards knew well, but with which 
their enemies were unfamiliar. Against this superior luck 
of the Winili, combined with the advantage of an earlier start 
and the unrivalled generalship of Alboin, the Gepidae and 
their allies had no chance of success in the race; they 
wandered continually out of the right track, were often forced 
to retrace their steps, and oftener at a loss for pioneers, so 
that the pursued were fast and sound within the walls of their 
capital before the pursuers sighted its outermost hamlet. 

And yet this vast expanse of desolated territory had once 
been all included in the dominion of mighty Rome, and her 
armies had known and had trodden proudly every fruitful 
league between the northern ocean and the tideless central 
sea. But these men who marched side by side With the 
Goths were no sons of the old triumphant city which had 
held half the globe in fee, whose muscular grip all the 
nations had dreaded, whose iron thongs had bound heroes 
and kings, whose awful voice had claimed obedient hearing 
alike in Gaul, in Britain, in Germania. Fallen was that rich 
and splendid Western Empire, faded were the glories of the 
godlike Caesar, a weak and degenerate race of princes swayed 
the sceptre which had once been second in might only to the 
winged bolt of immortal Jove ; and the warriors of the new 
Valentia were strangers and vagabonds in the country which 
their fathers had trodden with the confident step of the 
conqueror. 

At length Leuphana was reached ; not however until 
Alboin and his fair captive were already within its gates. 
Then the allies, pitching their camp before the city, as the 
Winili had done so lately in sight of Sirmium, sent their 
summons to the Lombard chief. He must surrender the 
Gepide princess unharmed to her people, or Leuphana should 
be stormed forthwith. But Alboin and his inflexible father 
returned for all reply a message of defiance couched in the 
most arrogant and disdainful terms. The Goths, indignant, 
began the assault without further parley or ado. On one 
side were passion and insulted pride, on the other despair 
and fear, and the sharp hunger for revenge. 

Kunimond and Helmichis directed all the efforts of the 
Gepidae. From dawn till sunset they were found at their 
posts beneath the buttresses, encouraging and commanding 
by turns. 



1 



28 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS! 

Steadily and bravely the enterprize progressed ; daunt- 
lessly men and generals alike performed their respective 
parts. For, before the eyes of every warrior in the pagan 
host, rose the vision of a beautiful damsel threatened with 
dishonour and doom, who stretched her white arms towards 
her people and cried to them for release from the thrall of 
the man she hated. And day and night at the heart of 
every Goth burnt the one fierce resolve, that come what 
might for them, that cry should not be uttered in vain ! So 
they were strong, every man of them ; and the Romans 
finding them so brave and earnest, took heart and energy 
from theirs and helped them well. 

Then at last came the struggle, and its crown. 
Kunimond, wounded in the thigh by an arrow from the 
city walls, had retired for a space to his tent, and left the 
storming of the gates to roll and roar on under the com- 
mand of Helmichis and the chiefs. It was high noon, and 
the glare of the summer sun beating sharply down on the 
bald dusty plain, had so quickened the galling of his wound 
that he had feared to remain longer astride his horse, lest 
pain and loss of blood should overcome him with some sud- 
den swoon. He threw himself on the mantle which served 
him by night for a couch, and demanded a goblet of tem- 
pered wine, which his leech permitted him to swallow while 
the hurt was washed and bandaged. Then lying back in 
silence, and leaning his head upon some cushions which his 
attendants had provided, the king presently seemed to sleep. 
Sigvald the physician softly withdrew, and stood in the 
tent-door, shading his eyes from the scorching light, and 
watching as best he could the progress of the attempt on 
the Langobard city. He could see little, however, for the 
swirling wreaths of dust which eddied high over the scene, 
and the misty scintillation of the quivering heated air above 
"the level. Confused cries, the dull thud of charging and 
rallying companies, and the clang of steel, mingling in one 
hoarse continual din, came to his ear unbroken and monoto- 
nous, till it seemed to his fancy like the incessant booming 
of a stormy sea upon a rocky shore. How long he stood 
watching and listening he knew not. The heat and the light 
both lessened, and the sun verged considerably towards the 
west. Sigvald had many times turned his gaze upon the 
King, but Kunimond, worn out with bodily fatigue and 
mental exhaustion, slumbered heavily. Suddenly across the 
open came a new sound, like a peal of thunder — roll upon 
roll ; a volume of thick grey dust rose into the air like 
smoke ; there was a moment's hush, and then a wild jubi- 
lant cry, the cry of a triumphant host, that was caught up 
from rank to rank like the echoing notes of a clarion-call. 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 29 

"A breach! a breach!" shouted Sigvald aloud in his ex- 
citement. "The wall has fallen! praise be to Thor the 
Hammerer!" 

His fervid ejaculation dispelled the torpor which had so 
long wrapt the brain of the King. He raised himself on his 
elbow, and looked earnestly at the animated face of his at- 
tendant. " Who praises the gods ?'* he asked, in deep husky 
tones : " Sigvald, how goes the battery ?** 

"Noble Kunimond," responded the leech, with an elated 
smile, " the Hammer of Thor has fallen on the Winili ! It 
was I who praised the god, — the Gepide troops already 
muster in the streets of Leuphana ! " 

" Thy hand, good Sigvald ! give me thy hand I" cried Ku- 
nimond. " I must needs rise and be gone ! Ill, indeed, that 
when at last the way is opened, my Goths should enter the 
city of the foe without their chief! Sigvald — my horse !" 

But the physician entreated him to be patient. "Thou 
wilt but tear thine hurt afresh," he argued, ** thou wilt faint 
in the fray, and be pounded to death in the crowded breach. 
Helmichis and the chiefs Hogen and Eric are doing their 
stoutest ; thy presence will distract them with a new anxiety. 
Rest, rest, my chief, and at dawn to-morrow thine own hand 
shall plant the Gothic ensign on the walls of the Vandal !" 

"By all the Dwellers in Asgard it is hard!" muttered 
Kunimond surlily. " Send, then, some scout to learn how 
the fight goes within the city ! the Winili are strong, strong 
and desperate! Bid them send me tidings of Rosamunda! 
Oh, that my own hand were on the bridle 1" 

Slowly the hot day declined, and the red sun, his golden 
armour flecked as if with blood, brake open the burnished 
portals of heaven and entered victorious within them. All 
around his path in the western reaches lay broken spears and 
shafts of light, ruddy-tipped and feathered with cloud ; be- 
neath him lay scattered in dark level bars the shattered pil- 
lars of heaven's colossal gates. 

Fast over the plain from the Langobard city a body of 
Gothic horsemen came spurring through the mellow glory, 
towards the tent of the wounded chief. 

Sigvald, straining his sight to recognise them, saw that the 
foremost steed carried a double burden. It was the charger 
of Helmichis, jaded, foam-plashed and battle-stained, but 
mighty yet in his paces, out-stripping with pride and viva- 
cious mettle the hoofs of his companions, singly ridden. 
Nearer and nearer he drew with flying main and thundering 
gallop, bearing the comely forms of his master and his 
master's prize of victory, the fair and queenly Rosamunda ! 

Rosamunda ! free and undishonoured ! , 



30 ROSAMUND A THE PRINCESS: 

A minute later the noble war-horse stood riderless, shaking 
his steamy flanks at the king*s tent-door, while Rosamunda, 
proud and triumphant, stood clasped in her father's embrace, 
with her fair face hidden upon his sturdy breast ! It seemed 
to them then, that such a moment of meeting was well 
bought by all the fear and shame that had foregone it 



CHAPTER VI. 

The Gepide tribe of the Gothic settlers in Europe pos- 
sessed the range of country including and surrounding the 
Dacian or Transylvanian mountains and plains. Their fast- 
nesses wefe the old Roman cities of Sirmium and Singidunum, 
on the site of which latter place is built the modem town 
of Belgrade. 

It was in Singidunum that Kunimond resolved to establish 
his court, if 'court' that can fairly be called which was but 
a mere unpolished circle of rough chieftains and barbarous 
vassals, unconstrained by etiquette, and undistinguished by 
meretricious splendour or corrupt living. All that these 
hardy Northmen knew of regal state, all that they prized 
of august rank, they had seen and honoured in Turisend, 
and now they rejoiced to find in his son that heritage alike 
of prowess and of strength which made for them the only 
glory of kingship. Power was their measure of a Master, 
— power, not of possessions, nor of pageantry, nor even of 
crafty government, but of the inherent might of manhood ; 
the power of the brave warrior, and of the successful champion. 
Nothing else, nothing less was able to win their rude love, 
or to move their admiration. Ignorant of all arts save that 
of warfare, and entertaining a steady contempt for luxurious 
surroundings and personal adornments, their garb was of 
the homeliest and most unaesthetic description, their songs 
and pastimes were all indissolubly connected with the na- 
tional passion for conquest. The rooms of Kunimond's palace, 
high-sounding epithet for the ancient tenement which the 
Gepide prince had chosen to appropriate, were utterly devoid 
of all those many graces of ornament which we are wont to 
imagine indispensable to the lodgment of royalty. In the 
principal apartment there were only the barest necessaries 
of board and settle. The massive stone walls were un- 
gamished save by scattered clusters of spears and other 
items of battle-gear, the pavement uncarpeted but for a few 
roughly dressed goat-hides which here and there covered the 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 3 1 

floor before the seat of a chieftain. All that marked the 
dignity of the place was to be found, not in the appoint- 
ments of the room, but in the men who occupied it. Men 
they were who needed no trappings of wealth or of art to 
enhance their grand individuality, men whose forms and 
faces made their greatness ; men of iron limbs and thews 
like flexible steel ; mighty in war, impatient of disaster, un- 
relenting in victory, fearless of death. These were the heroes 
whose blood moved through the veins and impelled the heart 
of the hardy dauntless world of the early Middle Age. And 
of such a race came the Gepide virgin, Rosamunda, exemplar 
and model of the true strong-minded woman. Born and 
reared in the lap of a nation whose custoths made but small 
distinction in the training of the sexes, and whose laws per- 
mitted any able-bodied person, — man or maid, — to carry arms, 
the daughter of Kunimond was from childhood an Amazon 
in heart and physique. Not the less a woman, because so 
unlike the feminine portraiture of our emasculated times ; 
but such a woman as suited most fitly that age of iron, 
a woman who would have deemed the reproach of cowardice 
and fear as great a disgrace to her womanhood as the charge 
of falsehood or of wantonness. Such, as please God, the 
return of virile strength to the heart of our palsied world 
may again bring forth in the good days to come, but then 
with purer and higher aspirations than were possible to the 
pagan Rosamunda. 

Nevertheless, in the eyes of her father she would have 
seemed better had she been a man. In the eyes of Hel- 
michis she could never have seemed better than herself. 
Brief had been the interval of peace between Kunimond 
and the Winili, since the restitution of the Gepide princess ; 
and although Leuphana still remained in the hands of the 
Langobard tribe, the pride and passion of Alboin had sus- 
tained a wound which sorely chafed his imperious spirit, 
and he steadfastly directed all his hopes and purposes to- 
wards the accomplishment of future vengeance. Neverthe- 
less, while Audoin lived and reigned, the fire of this revenge 
was perforce starved into patience, for the politic old Lombard 
monarch obliged his son to epouse Chlotswinda, daughter of 
a Keltic king whose friendship seemed far more desirable for 
the welfare of a growing dominion than the alliance of 
a paltry tribe like the Gepidae. But Chlotswinda was no 
happy wife. Alboin's love was elsewhere, and he had no 
soft words for the Prankish woman whom his father had 
forced into his reluctant arms. So for a short space she 
languished and grieved after the home she had left, and 
then, n^lected and unwept, she died, giving birth to a girl 
whom her husband named Albswinda. But before that birth 



32 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

and death took place, the soul of Audoin himself passed 
away into the land of shadows ; and the majesty of the 
Langobards devolved on the slayer of Thurismund. 

Chlotswinda had barely drawn her last breath when the 
new king of the Lombards despatched an ambassador to 
Kunimond's abode at Singidunum. Curt and pregnant was 
the announcement which Alboin thus transmitted to his he- 
reditary enemy. 

" I am," said he, " sole ruler of the Langobardi, and the 
wife of my youth is dead. Give me thy daughter Rosa- 
munda to fill her place, else I will bring against thee all 
the strength and flower of my people to beleaguer thy 
strongholds, and to sweep thy tribe away from the face of 
the earth for ever." 

Such were the words which the emissary spoke in the hall 
of Kunimond's palace. And Rosamunda, sitting at the feet 
of her father, heard them. Then, before the Gepide chief 
could make reply, she had leapt to her feet and answered 
the herald proudly and scornfully out of the fulness of her 
wild and dauntless soul. 

"Go back, and tell your master that Rosamunda the 
princess flings his challenge in his face ! Tell him the Goths 
will perish to the last man of them rather than yield to his 
embrace the daughter of that house whose blood is red upon 
his hands ! Tell him that the heart which beats here," she 
touched her bosom lightly as she spoke, " is none of a craven's 
nor of a traitor's, and that if he triumph over my people and 
carry me again to captivity within his palace, I and his death- 
warrant will enter its doors together ! Let him force his love 
upon me if he dare, and the hand of a woman and not of 
a warrior shall compass shamefully the overthrow of your 
hero-king ! " 

Standing erect and defiant before the Langobard she 
waved her queenly hand in sign of dismissal with such 
an air as a goddess might have fitly assumed toward some 
ignoble suppliant after pronouncing an adverse and irre- 
vocable oracle. 

The envoy hesitated, and glanced furtively at Kunimond, 
as though reluctant to depart without a direct message of 
reply from the Gepide lord himself But Kunimond s face 
was averted, and his brow was heavy and lowering. 

'*She hath spoken, Langobard," he said, in a voice that 
shook with the tremor of wrath ; " get thee hence, obey her 
bidding, and prepare for war as ye may list." And without 
gesture or word of salutation he suffered the ambassador 
to depart 

Kunimond then relapsed into a long and moody silence, 
out of which he at length roused himself by a sudden effort. 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 3J 

and called the warrior Helmichis, who sat with others of his 
chiefs at the further end of the great hall. 

" Helmichis," he said, " my daughter hath greatly praised 
to me thy valour and thy noble daring in conflict. It was 
the strength of thine arm and the skill of thy brain which 
alone availed to rescue her from thraldom, and to restore her 
untouched to the hearth whence she was stolen so basely. 
With thee therefore, preferred above thine elders, will I share 
the command of the Gepide host in this new campaign. Be 
gallant and undismayed as hitherto, and perchance some 
higher dignity, some worthier guerdon of thy prowess may 
be thine in the day of victory and of vengeance !" 

Thus he spoke, and as Helmichis, hopeful and exultant, 
bent the knee before his prince, the eyes of maid and war- 
rior met. 



CHAPTER VII. 

Alboin'S inveterate hatred of the Gepidae, no less than his 
burning desire for the possession of beautiful Rosamunda, 
impelled him to the speedy resumption of hostilities against 
Kunimond. The Langobard envoy did not fail to recount 
with stinging exactitude the circumstances of his reception 
at the Gothic court, and the defiant message with which the 
princess herself had answered his lord's rough wooing. 

Prompt of action as terse in speech, the Lombard chief 
lost no time in setting about the fulfilment of his threat, 
while yet he did not suffer impatience to over-ride military 
discretion. For, recalling the disaster he had suffered at 
Leuphana, a disaster mainly owing, as it seemed, to Roman 
intervention, Alboin resolved, in imitation of Kunimond's 
policy, to augment the already powerful hosts of his own 
subjects with the troops of the Avari, a neighbouring tribe 
of Huns, whose Chagan, or prince, had held amicable rela- 
tions with the court of Audoin. His overtures were pros- 
perous. The Chagan, proud to be leagued with the Lom- 
bard hero, consented with alacrity to the proposals submitted 
to him ; and with little delay, the combined armament started 
for the Gepide frontier under the guidance and generalship 
of Alboin. 

Meantime, on the other side, Kunimond and Helmichis 
were no idlers. Singidunum was fortified and garrisoned 
with such men as could be spared for the purpose, but, as 
before at Sirmium, the Gepide king desired first to en- 
counter the enemy in open plain, with the flower of his troops, 
rather than risk the danger of siege and slow starvation 
within city walls. 

D 



34 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

" The g^tes are behind us," he said, " at the worst we can 
retreat within them. But before that, let a push be made to 
rout the invaders in a fair field." There was no foreign aid 
this time for the Gepidae, for the Roman garrisons of Mursa 
and of Cibalae had been recalled, and both the towns aban- 
doned to the ever-increasing hordes of barbarians, as it had 
fared in like fashion, one by one, with all the northern pos- 
sessions of the fallen Empire. And to the seat of the Byzan- 
tine Empire itself the Goths demurred to appeal, for the Em- 
peror Justinian was dead, and the sway of their enemy, the 
crafty eunuch Narses, now at its zenith. 

Gallantly, notwithstanding, the warriors of Sirmium and 
Singidunum prepared to resist the approaching foe, ignorant 
of the precaution which that foe had taken to enhance his 
prospect of victory. 

But Kunimond, to whose vision the death of Thurismund 
and the abduction of Rosamunda were ever present, forbade 
his daughter to imperil herself a second time by sojourn in the 
Gepide camp. He assigned her instead an apartment on the 
wall of the city, whence the distant tents of her tribe could 
be well descried, and whence she might, perchance, look forth 
upon the inevitable contest and calculate its issues. 

Here, therefore, in the midst of her Gepide maidens, the 
brave princess found herself compelled to await, with un- 
utterable suspense and heart-rending agitation, the result of 
the struggle which should decide her own fate and the for- 
tunes of a whole nation. 

But of that momentous conflict she was destined to wit- 
ness neither the end nor the beginning. 

A detachment of the vast army of Lombards and Avari, 
directed by the wile of Alboin, manoeuvring to a remote side 
of the city, led the deluded Goths to follow, and as soon as 
the latter were well away from their entrenchments, a pro- 
digious swarm of Huns and Vandals rising from ambush on 
every hand fell upon the Gepide flank and rear like the 
closing waves of a mighty and tumultuous sea. 

And Rosamunda, where she sat disconsolate and watchful 
in view of the deserted tents, caught dim snatches of the noise 
and shouting in the valley far away, and feverishly wrung her 
hands and wondered what it meant. So that one of the 
women who stood by, seeing her mistress so distraught, and 
being fain to divert the current of her troublous fancies, sat 
down to a tapestry frame, and cast the ivory shuttle through 
the bright meshes, while she lifted her voice and sang : — 

"If the web of my life were unwoven, 

And the weaving to me were consign'd. 
If the hue of the years to be proven 
Were left to my mind, 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 3 J 

" Would I weave such a tissue as this is, 
With a heart for the shuttle I hold, 
With garlands of laughter and kisses 
And centre of gold?" 

Then straightway another maid, who knelt beside her comb- 
ing a fleece, took up the burden of the music, and answered, 
singing : — 

" Ah no ! for the world's bitter weather, 
The sun and the wind and the rain, 
Would blend your fair colours together 
With tarnish and stain ! 

" Better broider in dyes that are lasting, 
With shuttle of stone or of steel, 
For a heart may get broke in the casting 
Too sorely to heal !" 

And anon, both sweet voices glided thus together into the 
dainty measure of the rhyme : — 

" Sing shuttle ! my fingers shall follow 
Obedient, the track that you make, 
Flying this way and that, as the swallow 
Skims over the lake ! 

" Plick-pleck ! now he dips to the subtle 
Sleek water, and cleaves it apart ; — 
Plick-pleck ! now he rises ! sing shuttle. 
Sing swallow, sing heart !" 

But in the intervals of the song, the noise and the shouting 
of the distant medley floated in, confused and discordant, 
through the open narrow loop-hole of the turret-chamber, 
and Rosamunda, standing there upon the watch, lifted her 
hand imperiously to silence the voices of her maidens. 

"Girls," she said, "I pray you hold your peace. Your 
singing jars upon my heart ! No more of singing within the 
walls of our city until the king return to us, rich with spoil 
of gold and gear from the ravished pavilion of Alboin ! Then 
in your song you shall hail our Gepide chieftain Lord of two 
nations, heir new-born of blood to sudden splendor, — Kuni- 
mond the strong. Avenger of the noble Dead ! O my father !" 
she cried, with passionate gesture and utterance, turning her 
wild shining eyes from the wondering maids towards the 
valley where the battle raged unseen, "remember Thuris- 
mund! Remember the fair stripling who fell on the bare 
Sarmatian plain, fighting there hand to hand with the Lan- 
gobard, while the roll of war thundered behind him like the 
sonorous tramp of our martial gods, and the shrill shriek of 
arrows cleft the air above his dying head ! Father, to-day 
avenge thy name and his, and that dire disgrace which struck 
the heart of our land through his breast, waking wrath in 
women, and tears in the eyes of men for the dear sake of the 

D 2 



36 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

royal boy they loved ! O Master ! father ! king ! remember 
my thrall in Leuphana, and the cursed love of Alboin ! Re- 
member the palace of the Langobard whence the hand of 
Helmichis plucked me back yet virgin from the imminent 
embrace of Audoin's heir, this vampire of our house, this 
baneful carrion-hound that preys upon human loves, — this 
Alboin whom I hate! Ah, dearest Chief! here, here I await 
thy triumph ! my hands are fain to clasp thy knees, thy feet, 
thy throat ; my heart is fain to leap against thine own ; my 
fervent lips are athirst to hail thee lord and conqueror ; king 
whom one fair and gracious day hath doubly crowned, alike 
with the adoring love of thy Goths and with the guerdon of 
the invader's despair and fear!" 

Her bosom heaved tumultuously, she hid her face in her 
clasped hands, and leaned trembling against the stone ledge 
of the tiny window. 

"Pray Heaven!" cried one of her attendants, "that the 
chances of the day may be as thou sayest, princess !" Then 
another, who had taken her mistress's post of watch by the 
casement, answered quickly, " Heaven shall tell us soon in 
sooth, be fortune what it will ! For hither comes one of our 
men, running up from the valley as though the three Nomir 
themselves were behind him ! Doubtless he carries tidings 
for us!" 

And at that, Rosamunda looked out again and saw the 
Gepide of whom her maiden spoke, pass on rapidly beneath 
the wall toward the city gates, and there with frantic gesti- 
culations demand admittance. But of what passed in words 
nothing reached the lofty turret-window where the women 
were listening so eagerly. Only, a wild commotion ensued, 
a panic-stricken rush of feet and rattle of arms, and then the 
terrible sound of a mighty despairing wail, in which the 
voices alike of men and women shared. Then over the plain 
without came another and another Gepide, with flying feet, 
and fearsome eyes that glared in their widened sockets, 
hurrying towards the city like men pursued in delirium by 
some dreadful spectre. At the sight of them Rosamunda's 
brave hope gave way. 

"O my heart!" she cried, "I fear some awful evil! See 
how our people fly ! O my King, my father, — ^the gods pre- 
serve thee ! Helga ! Thorelil ! some one approaches, some 
messenger who would speak v/ith us ! Be noble, heart of 
Rosamunda the princess, — quit you well, unsteady knees of 
Rosamunda ! He is coming, this bearer of ill-news !" 

Pale as some fair ghost might stand, she stood motionless 
while the Gepide messenger entered, — a gallant warrior whose 
face she knew well. She had last seen him passing out 
through the gates of Singidunum at sunrise, in command of 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 37 

a troop, bold and intrepid of bearing, his face brightened 
with the h'ght of confidence and courage. And now he stood 
before her downcast and gloomy, with eyes that did not dare 
to meet her own, self-confessed before he spoke, as the 
bringer of disastrous tidings ! 

Nevertheless, there was no tremor in the voice with which 
Rosamunda bade him tell his errand. 

" Welcome, Hogen," she said, as he paused in the doorway. 
" Thou hast news for me, I doubt not." 

"Alas, princess!" answered the miserable Gepide, "forgive 
me the words I must speak. All is lost to us ! Kunimond 
is slain, the Goths are overthrown, the greater number of 
them dead or dying ; Helmichis has turned traitor to save 
his life, and sworn allegiance to Alboin !" 

Still white and unblenching, the daughter of Kunimond 
faced the Gepide warrior. 

"Say on!" she cried, "thou hast further news to tell! 
I am a princess born, I will not wonder nor weep at thy 
tidings! Hogen, sayest thou this Alboin whom we smote 
so lately hath made himself our master ? Sayest thou that 
a Gothic chief hath paid him fealty and sworn him service?" 

"Aye, madam," responded the warrior, "Alboin truly is 
master, but wile and not valour earned him his victory. 
Thou hast yet to learn the history of this day's calamity. 
Know then that our conqueror came against us leagued 
with the hosts of the Avari ! Our legions stood alone before 
the camp at sunrise, but the light that fell upon the targes 
of Alboin's armament discovered the war-harness of the Hun 
as well as that of the Langobard ! This I saw, and told thy 
father, but he bade me hold my peace, lest our troops should 
be discouraged and fainthearted. But when Helmichis led 
the van across the glen yonder, I knew we were marching 
on our deaths. And straightway, on every side of us, Huns 
and Vandals rose by hundreds from their ambush in the 
copses, all the covers were alive with them; hopelessly 
outnumbered we were beaten down like grass under the 
hail, — the valley is sown with our flesh and watered with 
our blood!" 

There were bitter tears in the eyes of the Gothic warrior 
as he told the news. But not in the eyes of the woman he 
addressed. Scarcely she seemed to note his presence, or to 
heed the sobbing, heart-stricken girls who surrounded her. 
Not hers to weep, or to yield to weak despair, when father, 
country, freedom and love fell smitten into the dust of death 
at her feet. The power of a hatred and pride such as would 
have made common natures base, ennobled her soul and 
lifted it beyond the touch of meaner passions. For her, all 
the sting, all the bitterness of the day's disaster was in the 




38 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

shame of it. The sorrow, the desolation of her own ruined 
life, — for these, as yet, she cared nothing. 

Standing upright, with clenched fingers and marble face, 
she uttered aloud the monody of her wounded spirit Not 
as though addressing her attendants, but rather like one who 
by spoken words struggles to realize conviction of some 
awful truth, incredible by means of thought alone. 

" So," she cried, " ends a noble dynasty ! Our nation, our 
name, and our lord have passed this day for ever into 
nothingness! Henceforth the deeds of our past are writ in 
water, no jot of that which once we held, — renown, honour, 
success, shall stand to prop our story up and make a land- 
mark of it for the unborn world ! We are fallen, we are dead, 
crushed, cast out ; our glory is no more than extinguished 
flame I And I, who should have filled my father's place years 
hence, chief and queen of the Gepidae, — I am the most de- 
graded and dishonoured slave in Alboin's court ; while these 
— O ye gods — these are no more Goths but Langobards, and 
their master is lord of the accursed Winili — Alboin — the 
conqueror of our race, — Alboin whom Helmichis serves!" 

Then one of the serving-girls, — she who an hour since had 
chanted the first stanzas of the shuttle-song, — Thorelil, fairest 
and tenderest of all the maids in the Gothic court, — rose 
from her place, and drew softly within her own the clenched, 
defiant hands of the princess. 

"Sweet," she whispered, "be not so strange of speech! 
Look upon us whose eyes are fruitful with womanly tears ; 
not barren as thine are ! O Rosamunda, be gracious to thy 
sorrow, and to theirs who mourn for thy father ! Let thine 
hands rest here in mine, lean thine head upon the bosom 
wherein my heart waits to give thee comfort ! I love thee 
well, my noble princess! What, no word, no tear? Speak 
for me, Gudrun !" 

"Alack!" cried the girl whom she adjured, "pray the gods 
rather to be tender with her and smite her dead ! Who now 
comes this way to augment our grief with more of ill news ? 
Holy heaven, defend us !" 

For, as she uttered the cry, Alboin himself stood in the 
open doorway. In his hand he carried the spear of Thuris- 
mund, and the barb of it was wet and red with Gepide blood. 
Behmd him pressed a throng of his retainers, whose evil- 
omened faces Rosamunda remembered to have seen once 
before under the ruddy torch-light of Turisend's royal tent. 
Then they and their lord had come as suppliants to the 
Gepide kmg; now they trod the floors of the Gepide palace, 
masters and disposers of all within or around it ! 

On the threshold of Rosamunda's chamber the Lombard 
pnnce halted, and stood surveying her. 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 39 

"Sweet lady," he said, "grace be with you !" 

" Sweet lord," she answered bitterly, " I give you thanks ! 

Is that my father's blood upon your hands? Reach them 

hither to me, and I will kiss them !" 

But with the word " my father's blood," the salt springs of 

her grief suddenly overflowed her sterile eyes ; she sobbed, 

reeled, and fell swooning at the feet of Alboin. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Thus was the vaunt of the Lombard champion redeemed 
by his deed. For the death of Kunimond, last of the Gepide 
chiefs, and the loss of his entire army in the fatal valley of the 
Ister and the Savus, struck so dire a chill of despair to the 
hearts of the garrison left within the walls of Singidunum that 
when the conqueror appeared at its gates and demanded 
immediate surrender, the resistance he encountered was of 
the feeblest. Dejection had seized upon every man in the 
city, not one of whom but had lost some of his dearest in 
that day's terrible rout, not one of whom but felt that the 
life and name of his* tribe had passed away with the breath 
of his king. Moreover, all the sturdiest and noblest of the 
Goths had gone out to battle in the train of Kunimond and 
Helmichis. They were all dead, and the few hundred veterans 
and youths who remained to guard the walls of Singidunum, 
could make but paltry defence against the assaults of a vast 
host, directed with unerring leadership and flushed with suc- 
cess. Not that the garrison gave in tamely to their doom. 
Broken-spirited, heart-sore though they were, they launched 
their handful of arrows bravely on the beleaguers, and when 
Alboin forced the gates of the city, their dead bodies lay 
bloody and stark about the trenches and along the silent 
streets. 

That struggle, that last slaughter, was the death-throe of 
the Gepide tribe, and the anguish of it, though sharp and 
hard, was brief enough. Scarce an hour after Hogen had de- 
livered his budget of melancholy news to Rosamunda in the 
turret-chamber, Alboin was master of Singidunum, and of the 
fair princess for whose sake he had stormed its ramparts. 
No Gothic warriors now to fight for the honour of their dar- 
ling, — no Helmichis to bear her away triumphant upon his 
gallant war-horse ! The brave charger lay dead in the glen 
among the corpses of the Gepidae, his great sides crusted 
with blood, and the javelin of an Avar through the mighty, 
silent heart that had known no fear nor weariness in life. 



4fi KOSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

And his master, Ilclmichis the Goth, was a renegade in the 
camp of tlic ( Iiins aiid Vandals ! 

Now Alhoin, though a heretic, was still a Christian, 
and had Christian scruples — at proper seasons — upon the 
Hcorc of unlawful love. Rosamunda was a princess, the 
dau(:ht<:r of a proud and fierce -tempered race, a woman 
whose favour he was fain to conciliate, as well for love's 
Niiki! as for that of safety. Policy, therefore, combined with 
religion in this instance to restrain the precipitancy of his 

Itassioii. He resolved to give her no cause for reproaching 
liiti with dishonourahle conduct towards herself, and hoped 
thai when once tlic crown .ind the ring had bound her his 
lawful spousr, she would speedily forget the ruin which 
her house nnd Iicr n:\tion had sustained at his hands. 
So little Allwin knew the heart of Rosamunda! 
Hut for a hrli'f season he judged it prudent to leave his 
rnptivo in i»cace with her maidens within the precincts of the 
I,;ini;oKir(( palace, to which she and they had been newly 
cotivcyt'd. WVII the princess understood that her mani^e 
with ilii- Lombard champion was inevitable, unless, indeed, 
rilir should cluiose to fv.idc it by a voluntary death. But 
no MHih hyitrriiMl intent disturbed the mind of this hardy 
iiuiid. AnotluT and more vengeful purpose nerved her with 
"lrani;e unwom.inly calmness in the teeth of the doomful 
wfdloik to which she was destined, giving to all her words 
iind w,iys so stem and unblenching a courage, that her 
lUmsfU took il f->r the insensibility of madness. 

So. on a nii;ht. as the princess sat with them in one of 
Ihf iivMUs of the l.angolMn.1 iial.\co, the maidens, to tiy 
her mind, m.ide doleful lament.\tivMi over the fallen fortunes 
of iheir i.iee, Ihey wept lor the two braw sons of Turisend, 
xUin Imth b\- one detesttM h.md ; they s^x-ke in low. hushed 
vtn.es ol the 1 1 e.uher.''HS stratagem bv means of which 
Alhoin e.>n.iueu\l the ilepiiU- : "thcv told piteous tales of 
the -.l.»u,-hiei i,i the \ alloy ^M" ihc rivers, and Wtteriy de- 
I'loi.d ilieii ,.wi, sh.xmo:'ul sirr\;:;:de, and the bondage of 
he. wh.* ^ho»KI haw Iwn their ^,:,c:i. 

Mm Ko>.iiUH«*l.». Mitin^ .i;v.!t a!^.'. silent, neither wept 
with Iheu), no, u-i-u^vM thci; wcvpiTij;. And when one 
o1 \\\v \\\A\yVws. vtid to hos, ■■ rr>.cess, hoedest thou nought 
ol .ill these llu«,:x'- v!>o os^'.y ivt.n.-vi ricrcdv. - Did 1 not 
*y\.\\ xihm- v«« ihe day when iv.v father was slain, and when 
M»,;.dunHm lell >■■ " ■ 

A\ WV 'm\ llu.hun. a s-!'. .m r.u-:v ^LscemmKit than the 
||^.»M« ua I*IV t^v»"-!'"-' v>i" :>..- warrior Hclmichis. and of 
tw(« MUu'isU X Xo the fvKKiaa. 

HK^hei ss'i-'.x the »?!ok shameful story, 
k *Mv .*:» nvn ilv vWokiac had looked for 




AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 4I 

valiant example, had basely yielded himself and his legion 
to Alboin, preferring ignobfe safety to a glorious death. 

And one said, " He feared when he saw the Huns, and the 
trap into which the Goths were drawn." 

And another, " They say he was bold enough at first, until 
he knew that the tide of fate was against us. It was the 
death of the king that appalled his spirit He could not 
fight alone." 

And a third, "Yea, and he hath done well, for Alboin 
favours him, and hath made him his armour-bearer." 

Then the red colour spread over the face of Rosamunda, 
and her fair limbs trembled. But for all the sorrow and 
the wrath at her heart, she uttered not a word nor a sigh, 
until the flame of the lamp in the chamber grew dim, and 
the maidens weary of their talk. Then she rose and dis- 
missed them to their sleeping- room, and remained alone, 
standing in the silence. 

Upon a stone pedestal fronting the threshold of the 
chamber, Alboin, — to convert or to insult his prisoner, — had 
placed a sacred image, such as Christians, both orthodox and 
heretic, were wont to set up in their houses, as of old the 
Greeks and Romans had set up on the family hearth the 
effigies of their Lares and Penates. Above this image hung 
the brazen oil-lamp, its fitful, sickly light making the painted 
face and limbs of the figure seem to writhe and quiver in 
ghastly pantomime. A moment Rosamunda glanced at it, 
half in wrath, half in scorn ; then turning away she passed 
on to the window, and stood in the gleam of the starlight, 
looking out across the wide purpled landscape, and away 
towards the region of the North, where, over dark seas lay 
the wild home of the Goths and Vikings, the land of Odin 
and his warlike Jarls. And the free breath of the great earth- 
mother touched her lips, the power of speech awoke within 
her; she stretched out her white hands to the night, and 
poured forth her heart in a river -of swift and ardent prayer. 

•'Ah! grand and awful gods of the North!" she cried, 
''vast spirits who dwell in the crystal pavilions of the 
stars, — Genii of Asgard and of iEser, hear the voice and 
the oath of Rosamunda the princess! Of all the faithful 
Groths who served you and swore by your mighty names, 
I alone remain, — I alone, a maid and a bond-slave! But 
the soul within me is strong and free, and the woman's 
hands I raise to your thrones have grasped spear and bow 
in the day of battle ! Give me power to redeem the honour 
of the Goths, give me might to avenge the shame that lies 
upon the glory of my father's race 1 We must die, we must 
perish, — I and my people, yea we must perish; but like 
the sun, let us go down in blood! Ye also, gods of the 



42 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

Norse, are passing away from our world ; already your 
mighty shapes grow dim and shadowy in the upper air, — 
obscured by the incense smoke of Christian altars. Weaker 
deities with beardless faces, mild and childlike, usurp the 
thrones your giant forms so long have filled ! Where once 
the majestic form of the war-god Odin towered in huge 
divinity, stand the feeble and lacerated feet of the pale 
Christ ! Where once we beheld a stately and fertile goddess, 
— Hertha, the life-giving mother and queen, — there kneels 
a slender and timorous maiden with downcast eyes and 
wounded heart, a vestal, unmated and sorrow-stricken ! These 
are the new divinities, these, — the rejected, the mean, the suf- 
fering ; and to give these place, O grand and sturdy gods of 
the ancient faith, are ye and yours dethroned ! But for me 
ye still live, for me ye reign as of old. Stoop from your 
eternal seats, steel my hungry spirit, strengthen my eager 
hands ! Grant me my fill of the bitter vengeance I seek, 
let me drink a rich draught of the Christian blood of the 
Langobard ! Strike through me, through me, dread Nornir, 
three-formed Destiny, weavers of human doom, pitiless Udr, 
Verthandi and Skulld ! To this end only I live, to this 
I devote my virginity ; may Vara and Synia witness my oath, 
and, if I fail, avenge with double curse the broken faith of 
Rosamunda ! For all whom my soul found worthy have 
passed away, save one ; and that one lives to bear the name 
and to carry the heart of a traitor ! " 

Angry and tearless, she tossed her bare gleaming arms 
aloft, and sank upon her knees in the glint of the star-light 
Behind her the lamp had spent its puny flame, and the 
image of the deity she disdained was shrouded in darkness. 
Around and beneath the earth lay sleeping yet, the pulses 
of her great heart beating out the hours of silence, one 
by one ; above, the passionless stars swept on in their 
glittering courses. But beyond the faint reaches of the 
eastward hills lay a single narrow streak of grey light, hazy 
and indistinct, the lifting eye of the new dawn. And first 
to know and to herald its coming would be the wild birds 
of the air. Nature's poets, types of the singers and missioners 
whose voices warn the world, whose spirits float on wings 
of freedom, untamed and unafraid ; the ichor of whose 
wondrous strength is the pure element of the open heaven ! 



CHAPTER IX. 

The sun had set upon Rosamunda's marriage-day. The 
new queen of the Lombards sat alone in her bridal chamber, 
meditative and gloomy. She had not yet laid aside the 
jewels of her unaccustomed regalia, and the folds of her 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE, 43 

broidered wedding-robe lay glittering about her feet. What 
a melancholy fate was hers ; and yet neither her face nor 
her attitude would have aroused the pity of a spectator. 
Rosamunda was not a lovable woman ; she lacked the charm 
of pathos even in situations of the profoundest misfortune. 

By -and -by, while she sat there, moody and immobile, 
a faint stir made itself audible behind the arras at the 
further end of her apartment Slowly and cautiously the 
heavy folds of the tapestry were pushed apart, and the tall 
figure of a man discovered itself under the uncertain flicker 
of the cresset lights which illumined the bridal chamber. 
Becoming aware of a new presence, Rosamunda lifted her 
head and turned her eyes with some curiosity on the in- 
truder. Immediately a sharp spasm convulsed her whole 
frame, she started to her feet and uttered a sudden cry: 
"Helmichis!" 

The man whom she named darted forward, threw himself 
before her, and seizing the hem of her robe covered it with 
passionate kisses. 

For a moment Rosamunda looked down on the kneeling 
Goth with an expression of deep and strangely mingled 
emotions. Then all that was tender, all that was regretful 
in the glance disappeared, her beautiful face took upon it 
only a gaze of hard contempt, and she recoiled as though 
from some noxious or ignoble thing. 

Helmichis was not slow to note or to interpret the silent 
significance of her action. 

" Rosamunda," he said, " my princess, my queen, be patient 
with me I I am here at the peril of my life, and my time for 
speech with thee is short." 

" Speak," she answered coldly, and with averted eyes. " I 
know well that life is dear to thee ; that thou hast already 
amply proved." 

" Not dear for mine own sake, Rosamunda," he said. 

He had taken her taunt mildly, as some men take such 
things of women. This stung her the more. 

"How," she retorted, angrily, "art thou not Alboin's armour- 
bearer, — thou, a Gepide chief?" 

He answered slowly, looking full at her knitted brows, 
and speaking with almost a smile upon his lips : " Art not 
thou Alboin's wife, — thou, a Gepide princess?" 

She would not deign, he knew, to defend herself by plead- 
ing, as some women would have done, the weakness or the 
helplessness of her sex ; she would answer him as man to 
man. But to his surprise no answer reached him. Rosa- 
munda reddened, and stood silent. The Goth rose from the 
kneeling posture he had retained throughout the brief dia- 
logue, and confronted her, endeavouring by closer scrutiny 



44 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

of her face to gain, if possible, some indication of the thoughts 
which filled her brain. At length, dreading the return of 
Alboin, he resolved again to address her. 

*' Rosamunda, think not that I am unaware of the purpose 
thou hast at heart in consenting to a marriage which is hate- 
ful to thee. I am not come hither to insult my princess with 
the display of a traitor's malice, rejoicing in her misfortunes. 
But I have chosen this night — this hour, as most befitting the 
defence which I have to make to thee. Rosamunda, thou 
believest me guilty of an infamous perfidy, thou believest 
that I sold my honour and my service into the hands of 
Alboin for the paltry meed of life as a vassal in the hire of 
the Langobard. It would have been the part of a noble 
Goth to have died spear in hand with his face toward the 
foe. A chief of the Gepidae should rather have slain himself 
with his own hand than have suffered the thong of his adver- 
sary to bind him. None but a craven or a traitor could be 
so unmindful of the stern traditions of Odin's sons, as to 
prefer a voluntary servitude to the glorious death of a free 
warrior. Thus didst thou reason, my princess, and in thine 
eyes the name of Helmichis was shamed as the name of 
a dastard and a renegade. But now hear the truth. — On the 
day of that miserable slaughter I knew not that Alboin had 
brought the Huns against us in his train. Not one of us 
knew of their presence in the field until too late. Thinking 
to close upon the rear of Alboin's army while engaged in fight 
with the men under Hogen's command, I led my troop of 
horse into the defile of the glen. There the wily Lombard 
had packed his Huns in ambush. In the thick of the 
struggle which followed I contrived to send one of our 
company for aid, to Kunimond. Instead of help he brought 
me back the dire tidings of thy father's death. He had seen 
the king fall under the hoofs of his own steed, — had seen 
him lie prone in the dust of the plain, his head stricken from 
his neck by the hand of Alboin. Then I raised myself in my 
stirrups and beheld the height covered with corpses, the Lom- 
bards everywhere triumphant and spreading fast to the walls 
of Singidunum. In that moment too my horse was mortally 
thrust, he reeled beneath me and fell, his huge frame crashing 
like a hurled rock among the thick branches of the coppice 
trees. The voice of the Avar who had struck us down rose 
harshly over the din of the fray ; * Yield, chief of the Goths, 
give up thine arms, and I spare thy life!' He deemed 
me such a prize as might secure him favour with Alboin. 
Quickly, as the sword flashes overhead ere it descends, a sud- 
den wave of thoughts swept through my mind. 

"The king is dead — Alboin marches on our city. For 
aught I know, our chiefs are all slain save myself, and for me 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 45 

there is no chance of rescue or of escape at this crisis. By 
my death Rosamunda will be left unchampioned, she will be 
borne captive to the Lombard palace, no man of her race 
will remain to watch over her destiny, or, if need arise, to 
avenge her honour. I will go into thraldom with her, I will 
become for her sake her master's vassal ! Princess, I sur- 
rendered my arms to the Hun, I entered the service of the 
Langobard ; and I have striven so successfully for his fa- 
vour, that to-night my fortune gives me this happy chance 
of speaking alone with my queen ! For thee, Rosamunda, 
for thee, and for the great love I bear thee, have I chosen to 
forego the glory of the warrior for the collar of the serf! Use 
me now in thy designs, appoint me any part thou mayst 
list, bid me undertake in thy service whatever enterprize 
thou dost meditate against our Vandal lord, and thou shalt 
find the heart within me at least as brave and as dauntless 
as when it beat against thine own in the flight from the 
fallen walls of Leuphana !" 

The earnestness of his voice, if not the longing in his eyes, 
would have convinced any woman under heaven of his truth. 

Rosamunda slowly extended her hands towards him, and 
clasped his firmly and softly within them. Frank she was 
in acknowledging an error, as fierce in resenting an injury. 

" I have wronged thee, Helmichis," she said. " But yet 
I was not wholly blameful, for I knew not until now of the 
love thou bearest me. Had I known it earlier, I might have 
read thine actions by its light." 

He caught her quickly in his arms. 

" O Rosamunda !" he cried, *' thou hast seen it in my face, 
thou hast heard it in my voice a hundred times and more I 
Could I ever look on thee, my sweet, as on another woman, 
or didst thou ever hear in my speech to another the passion 
that made every word I spoke to thee like a beat of my 
heart.?" 

" Nay" she said, putting him from her gently, " maidens 
seek not for such signs as these !" 

But she trembled and faltered a little as she spoke. 

*•* Yet, Rosamunda," he murmured, gazing earnestly at her, 
"I think, too, that thou lovest me?" She gave him no answer 
in words ; only she lifted her eyes and looked him full in the 
face. There she let him read the reply he sought ; and in 
silence she dropped her head upon his breast Thus had 
love power to make even this woman lovable ! 



46 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS : 



CHAPTER X. 

Alboin's marriage with Rosamunda was, for the Lombard 
monarchy, the inauguration of a series of fresh and brilliant 
conquests. For the next year destiny favoured our Vandal 
hero with the powerful alliance of Narses the Roman general, 
a stroke of fortune which was brought about in the following 
manner. 

A quarrel had arisen between the eunuch, then exarch of 
Ravenna, and the Empress Sophia, Justin's wife. Narses 
was deposed from his vice-royalty and a new governor ap- 
pointed, but the transaction did not end there. Sophia 
added to the letters of recall addressed to the fallen states- 
man these insulting words : " Let Narses leave to men the 
exercise of arms and the dignities of political administration. 
His proper place is among the maidens of my palace, where 
a distaff shall be placed in his hands." Narses, stung to the 
quick, retorted, " I will spin the empress such a thread as she 
shall not easily unravel !" And from his enforced retirement 
at Naples he sent messages to Alboin, inviting him to under- 
take the invasion of the Roman territory in Italy, and proffer- 
ing his own assistance to the enterprise. 

The ambitious warrior-king snatched eagerly at this bril- 
liant chance of conquest. On the 22nd of April, 568, the 
whole nation of the Lombards, with twenty thousand confed- 
erates gathered from the kindred tribes of Germania, aban- 
doned their northern plains and crossed the Julian Alps. 
From the snowy heights of these majestic mountains they 
first beheld with exultation the fair and fruitful region which 
was destined to become their own. 

With the consummate wit of a born general, Alboin con- 
trolled his vast host. In military tactics no man before or 
since ever surpassed him. By his wise direction, the Lom- 
bards and their allies used every available means of conci- 
liating the inhabitants of the country upon which they de- 
scended. No plunder, no devastation was permitted ; villages, 
orchards and vineyards were respected ; order and peace 
everywhere followed the march of the wily barbarian. Thus 
he traversed the whole inland district without once meeting 
an army in the field. Milan (Mediolanum) opened her gates 
to the invaders on the 4th of September, 569. Pa via ( Tici- 
num) succumbed latest of the imperial strongholds, and at 
length only Rome and Ravenna remained to the Byzantine 
empire. The mastery of the whole of North Italy was thus 
secured to the Lombards ; and their chief, who had hitherto 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 47 

controlled a mere rough tribe of Vandals in the wilds of Pan- 
nonia, beheld himself the despotic governor of a vast and 
beautiful territory, rich in cultivation and inhabitants. Suc- 
cess being thus assured, Alboin resolved to celebrate his con- 
quest with feast and revelry, and to hold at Verona a trium- 
phant banquet, on a scale becoming the resources of so great 
a prince. 

The night chosen for the carousal was in the balmiest and 
most enchanting season of the year. The palace. banquet- 
hall was opened to the soft twilight of a sky which the sun 
seemed loth to quit, and the faint evening breeze mingled 
freely with the rich odours of the flowers and wine which 
covered the glittering tables of the festival. At the head of 
one of these stood the throne of the hero Alboin ; about him 
were grouped the chiefs of the Langobard race, and of 
the allies who had assisted to bring their mighty enterprise 
to its splended issue. Fronting the royal seat, at the further 
end of the hall, and surrounded by her women, sat Rosa- 
munda, diademed and robed like a goddess, the fairest and 
most regal spectacle amid all the magnificent pageantry. 

Midnight was near at hand, and the guests had already 
drunk deeply, when the voice of Alboin suddenly rose high 
above the songs and the laughter of the festival 

*' Bring hither," he cried, ** our cup of victory ! It is time 
we should taste together the crowning libation of the feast !" 

Then, turning to the assembly, he added, " Chiefs, this is 
the night of the Langobard's triumph. I have reserved till 
now the fulfilment of an oath I swore long since. To-night 
I drink a draught of my richest Falernian from the skull 
of the man who once vowed to do the like with mine ! Ill 
he judged to make such boasts in the ear of Alboin! Now 
let his pagan ghost bear witness to my revenge, and see with 
shame the lips of the man he dared to menace rest on the 
jewelled brim which once contained his own lack-lustre 
brain!" 

And rising in his place, he held aloft before the guests 
a strange goblet which one of his attendants had filled with 
Falernian wine. It was a human skull, hollowed, set in gold, 
and studded with costly gems. 

"Comrades!" cried Alboin in exultant tones, as the war- 
riors about him sprang from their seats, — " I drink to the 
lasting dominion of the Lombard dynasty, from the skull 
of Kunimond the Gepide!" Then, wiping his beard after 
the draught, he called Helmichis, who, as his duty demanded, 
stood behind his lord. 

** Here, Goth," said he, placing the skull in his retainer's 
hands, "carry thy master's head to thy master's daughter 1 




48 ROSAlft^TJA THE PRDCCESS: 

Bid our lovely Rosaxnunda do equal honour to oar triumph, 

and rejoice while she drinks with her departed sire!'^ 

Helmichis trembled, and threw a fearful glance towards 
the face of his proud mistress ; but the look he met there 
determined him on a mute obedience. Amid a profound 
silence Rosamunda rose, took the dreadful goblet steadily 
in her hands, and setting her li|>s upon its brim, she kissed 
it, drank, and said aloud : " The will of my lord is done." 
And none but Helmichis as he bent b^ore her, heard the 
fierce words she added low to herself: **Dog of a Lan- 
gobard! though I die for it, this insidt shall cost thee thy 
life to-night !" 

The celebration of the toast thus savagely inaugurated, 
was the closing episode of the banquet Rosamunda retired 
first, taking ^ith her the train of waiting-women ; soon after 
the chiefs dispersed, and the remains of the feast were left 
to the greed of Alboin's barbaric serfs. 

But w^hen the Lombard hero had stumbled, heavy with 
wine, to his bed-chamber, and the vast stone court of the 
palace ^-as deserted and silent, Helmichis, lying restless on 
his couch, distinguished the sound of a footstep approaching 
his room. Noiselessly he rose, and lifting the tapestry which 
covered the threshold, perceived Rosamunda advancing 
along the corridor which led from the women's apartments. 
As she came stealthily fonvard, her long bright hair falling 
unbound about her neck, her face stem and unnaturally pallid 
under the white glint of the moonlight that flooded the 
narrow galler>'', Helmichis inv^oluntarily recalled the pro- 
phecy of Thorsen the Gothic Scalder : — 

" Then against the sk\' behold 
Mcn-ed a shape of awfiil seeming, 
Fair and tall, with hair of gold, 
Down its marble bosom streaming. 

* Who art Thou, — more dread than Odin ? 
Art thou mortal — art thou human ? ' 

* Yea,' sho said, * an angn- Woman 
Stands before thee. Lord of Death ! ' ^ 

Low and eager the tones of Rosamunda's voice broke in 
on his musings. 

^ " Helmichis," she said, looking fixedly upon him, " the 
time has come for the performance of thy promise. Dost 
thou still love me, and art thou as willing to do me service 
now, as thou wcrt on my bridal night ?'' 

"My queen," responded the armour-bearer \iith worship 
in his eyes as he drank in with them her glorious beauty, 
•* I am ready to die for the sake of but one hour of thy 
love I Why hast thou so long denied it to me, — thou who 
hatestmenot?" 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 49 

He would have fallen at her feet, but with a rapid gesture 
she restrained him. 

" Stand up," said she, " I doubt not thy devotion. But 
it is not vows nor prayers which I ask of thee to-night, — it 
is work, — work which shall earn thee the reward thou 
seekest. Thou wert witness of the indignity Alboin put 
upon me an hour since before all his guests at the banquet ; 
nay, thou thyself wert forced to endure the keen edge of his 
grini jesting. Give me thine aid, Helmichis, to wash out 
these insults in the blood of their perpetrator, — the Lango- 
bard who slew my father and my father's brother ! Refuse 
me, and I will hazard the attempt alone, rather than remain 
longer unavenged ; comply, and so soon as Alboin's corpse 
lies at our feet, I will yield myself into thine arms I Helmi- 
chis, wilt thou win me so ? Is thine heart as brave as was 
thy boast ? " 

She spoke in a rapid intense whisper, searching his face 
meanwhile with a gaze of the deepest earnestness. He 
hastened to answer her in the same hushed tone. 

"Have I not told thee, my sweet, that I would gladly 
risk any death for thy sake ? But I like not that t&ou 
shouldst be sharer in this adventure. There is great 
danger — ." 

She interrupted him angrily. 

** Long ago I vowed to the Nornir that Alboin should die 
by no other hand than mine ! I seek only thine assistance, 
Helmichis ; when once he is in our power it is / who 
must strike!" 

Looking into her wrathful eyes, and hearing the decision 
of her tones, the Goth resolved not to contest the point But 
he ui^ed instead a new proposition. 

" If such be thine intent, Rosamunda, we cannot — we dare 
not attempt the exploit, unless Alboin's henchman, Peredeus, 
be gained at least to secrecy. Dost thou not know that he 
guards the sleeping-room of his lord ? How shall I protect 
thee against both master and vassal ? Doubtless he would 
arouse Alboin, or even fly to summon men from the guard- 
chamber. Think me not over cautious; my timely advice 
once saved our nation from ruin." 

"What, then, wilt thou have me do?" asked the queen 
impatiently. " My wrath admits of no delay ; Alboin must 
not look upon the rising of another sun ! Speak, hast thou 
no scheme to propose ?" 

For a few moments he reflected, and then answered slowly, 
"Aye, Rosamunda, and it shall be briefly told. Peredeus 
hath a passion for thy maid, Thorelil ; she is coy as women 
will be, and he eager as becomes a lover. Write here on thy 
tablets a message which I will carry to Peredeus, appoint 

£ 



50 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

a meeting with him alone, an hour hence, in the ward-room 
of the western gallery, and sign, not thine own name, but 
the name of her whom he loves. I will charge myself to 
remove his possible scruples. * It is but for a brief space/ 
I will tell him, * and the king is oppressed with heavy sleep.' 
And further, I will offer to take office as his substitute, till 
he return, and should need arise, to excuse him satisfactorily 
to Alboin. All this is easy enough. Your part, my sweet, 
is worthier of your better skill The eastern ward-room is 
disused and utterly dark ; its window is masoned up, the 
passage that leads to it is buried in absolute gloom. Pere- 
dcus will not be able to see thee, but he will hear the rustle 
of thy garments and take thee for Thorelil. Be silent until 
he embrace thee, or seek to use some such endearment 
Then discover thyself in terms of indignation, resent his 
insolence, discredit his excuses, and threaten him with the 
anger of his lord. When he implores thy clemency and 
describes the letter he has received, beg^n to waver, and 
seeming but half to relent, depart as if to question thy 
maid. But ere thou leavest him be careful to exact his 
promise to remain there till thou return, warning him that 
if he escape thou wilt certainly acquaint Alboin with his 
offence against thee. The rest remains \dtii us, Rosamunda ; 
only give me the tablets quickly.** 

She nlacci.1 them in his outstretched hands. 

'* llclniichis, thy wit almost equals a womanV' she said. 
** But how shall I account to Peredeus for my presence at 
such an hour in the ward-room ?" 

•• That, my queen,** he answered, " I leave to wit which is 
quite a woman*s/* 



CHAPTER XI. 

In the thick darkness of the ward-chamber npon the 
crtstorn wing of tho j\iLux\ Rosamunda aii*aited the coniing 
of TcixhIous, Her susjvnsc was brief enough, for the ardour 
of K>vc ^ave sjhwI to his kxt, and the rattle <k steel harness 
»iHM\ u\4ulc itself hcarvl in the \'aulted passage without. 
TrtuninK ttl length, and ^:n>pia^ for the arched open en- 
trance of Ihc \vaal-rvv>tn. he ga\^ ^xnc to a low anxious 

'♦MybclowtU art thiHi here ?^ 

Thcrv W4» no reply ; only the rcstltng sound of a woman's 
? rKtc\}ix^ \\xsx the' stv^e walls and o%-cr the pave^ 
l¥NM\l» hinv IVncdeus extended his anns^ caught the 




AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 5 1 

moving form passionately to his breast, and kissed its parted 
lips with all the enthusiasm of a hungry lover. 

" Sweetheart," he whispered, " this is indeed kindly done ! 
I knew thou wouldst not be always obdurate! Oh, that 
I might see thy face! Come out into the moonlight but 
for a moment ; we may easily slip hither again unobserved. 
Everybody in the place is asleep, — the guards are all lying 
as drunk as hogs around the banquet-tables ! I saw them as 
I passed just now. Such a spectacle ! Tis well for them that 
their lord is in the same plight !*' And there he stopped the 
flow of his loquacity to laugh. 

Rosamunda wrested herself from his grasp. 

" How now ! " cried she, in accents of extreme displeasure, 
"what insolence is this.? For whom dost thou take me, 
Peredeus i" 

The deluded henchman checked his untimely mirth, and 
retreated from her at least as briskly as he had advanced, 
muttering with a horrified expression of voice, " I thought 
it was Thorelil!" 

" Not so," returned his companion sternly, " I am Rosa- 
munda. Knave, thy lord and mine shall hear betimes of 
the outrage thou hast offered me. What ! couldst thou 
fancy the wife of Alboin would stoop to wanton with such 
as thou art ?" 

" By all the life in my body," reiterated the dupe, " I swear 
I came hither to find Thorelil !" 

Rosamunda laughed scornfully. 

" A crafty tale," she sneered, " but hardly clever enough to 
beguile me ! Thorelil is the most bashful and discreet of all 
my tire-women. She is the last maiden to have given thee 
a midnight tryst in such a place as this I" 

"I crave thy noble patience, madam," cried Peredeus 
eagerly, "I have here the letter she sent me not an hour 
ago! If thou wouldst but deign to come out of this dark 
hiding-place, I could shew thee the very words she wrote !" 

*' Give me the letter here," said the queen, hastily snatching 
away the tablets as he drew them from the pouch at his 
girdle. " I will take the writing hence to Thorelil, and ques- 
tion her myself. But attend, and beware; this may prove 
but a trick of thine to escape my just resentment If thou 
darest to quit this room till my return, I warn thee the king 
shall assuredly learn what insult thou hast presumed to put 
on Rosamunda! And I warrant thee too thy head shall 
answer him for that !" 

She paused, expecting his asseverations of obedience, but 
affairs suddenly assumed an aspect for which, at this stage 
of the dialogue, she was unprepared. 

" Fair lady," said Peredeus, changing his tone of alarm for 

E 2 



52 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

one of curiosity, " it seems to me that the trick, if there be 
one, is on thy part rather than on mine. I understand not 
how I came to encounter the queen of the Lombards here 
to-night. Nor why," he added, after a moment, "Thorelil 
doth not appear to keep the assignation she herself made 
with me. Will my lord's wife condescend to explain at 
least the first of these seeming mysteries ? " 

Rosamunda had trusted, by the adoption of an indignant 
manner, to bully Peredeus out of daring to start this diffi- 
culty. Finding, however, that she had failed to intimidate 
him sufficiently, she raised her tone to the highest pitch of 
arrogance. 

" It is not befitting the queen of the Lombards to justify 
herself at the bidding of her husband's servitor. My con- 
duct and my actions, fellow, are no concern of thine ! Didst 
thou dream I should stoop to make excuses or explanations 
to tlue ? " 

But she had gone too far ; or perhaps the darkness em- 
boldened Peredeus. Had he been able to see her face 
he might have shewn less temerity. Thrusting himself 
before the archway to prevent her egress, he resumed : 
** Madam, though I am a serf, I am yet no fool. This 
letter — this meeting — this attempt to detain me here, are 
but passages in a play of which I know not the purport ! " 

Rosamunda grew desperate. Night was already far ad- 
vanced, — she could afford to waste time no longer. 

" Peredeus," cried she, turning to bay like a hunted deer, 
" thou shalt hear the truth ! Alboin has grossly affronted 
me at the feast to-night. He made rude sport before all 
his chiefs of the memory which is dearest and holiest to 
me, and compelled me, with bitter taunts, to drink wine 
with him out of my father's skull. Stung to the heart, 
I have sworn to suffer the hateful love of thy Langobard 
master no longer. Now choose — at once ! Associate thyself 
with me and with Helmichis in our design against Albioin's 
life, and win thereby my gratitude and the richest reward 
which thou canst ask or I can give. But if thou oppose 
thyself to me, and seek to hinder this enterprise, I will 
accuse thee to Alboin of a treasonable attempt upon my 
honour, and my testimony shall not lack support. Then, 
Peredeus, thou wilt stand but small chance with Rosa- 
munda's lord." 

A flash of admiration for the courage of the woman, 
who in such a place and season could be thus lavish of 
her threats, crossed the brain of Peredeus. But he also 
had a purpose in view, and answered her with simple 
earnestness : 

** Queen Rosamunda, I neither hate nor love thy lord. 



V 
V 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 53 

But my heart is set upon winning my dear mistress. She 
doth not think of me unkindly, but dares give me no 
hope, fearing to incur thy displeasure by favouring openly 
the suit of a Langobard. Promise me the hand of the fair 
maid Thorelil, and I will do for thee to-night whatsoever 
thou shalt demand.** 

" Thy request is freely granted, good Peredeus,** returned 
the queen. "And it shall be my care to give thee with 
thy wife such dower as my treasury may be able to bestow. 
Now go hence quickly, seek Thorelil, and bid her prepare 
to quit Verona with thee and me at dawn. Get horses and 
attendants ready with all the speed thou canst use. To- 
morrow's sunset must see us within the Roman walls of 
Ravenna." 

Then she said to herself, " Great Odin ! how weak are 
these men, — or rather, how strong is their love! What 
indignity will they not endure, what treachery will they 
not commit, for the sake of the women who have won their 
hearts ! " 



CHAPTER XII. 

Dawn was already peering greyly into the room wherein 
Alboin lay stretched in heavy slumber. The tread of Rosa- 
munda and Helmichis passed his couch unheeded ; no sound 
so gentle could reach his torpid brain. Facing the dim 
light he lay, but half disrobed, the glittering taberd of his 
festal attire still covering his breast, and upon the velvet 
mantle which enwrapped his feet were the purple stains 
of wine yet wet and bright as fresh-spilt blood. Rosamunda, 
bending over a pile of arms beside the couch, lifted noise- 
lessly 5ie spear which had once been Thurismund's, pressed 
its barb against her lips, felt its edge, and whispered as she 
drew her fingers caressingly along its shining haft, " Good 
steel! to-night thou shalt strike thy best and most re- 
doubted blow, though it be a woman's hand that direct 
thee ! " 

Then, glancing at Alboin, she added in louder tones, 
" Rouse him, Helmichis, I cannot slay a sleeping man. 
Besides, I would have him look upon my face ! " 

Her voice seemed to stir confusedly the dulled senses of her 
drowsy lord. His lips unclosed, he moved on his pillow and 
muttered hoarsely : — 

"By the power of God, methinks the wine hath drawn 
a richer flavour from the heathen skull of the Gepide ! Fill 
again to me, Henrick, — let the gracious juice flow freely ! " 



\ 



54 ROSAMUNDA THE PRINCESS: 

" Aye ! ** repeated Rosamunda, looking at him, " let it 
flow ! I feel stronger again ! Awake, Alboin ! " she cried, 
" bestir thyself, Christian toper ! It is the daughter of Kuni- 
mond who calls ! " 

The king's eyes unclosed heavily, he glared about him 
a moment like a ferocious beast suddenly roused from his 
lair, struggled to his feet, and snatching up a small wooden 
stool from the floor beside the bed, hurled it drunkenly at 
Helmichis. 

" What dost thou here, Goth ? " roared he with an oath ; 
" who bade thee hither to disturb me ? " 

Then, perceiving his wife, he broke into a rough fit of 
laughter. " Ah ha ! my handsome witch ! " he cried, " was 
the Falernian sweet last night ? What thinkest thou of my 
dainty goblet ? " 

" 111 thou judgest to bandy jests with Rosamunda I " she 
answered, quoting his own words with emphatic bitterness, 
" Defend thyself, Langobard ! this is thy last battle with the 
Gepidae ! *' 

As she spoke, Helmichis, taking her words as a signal for 
the encounter, attacked the king with a short poignard ; 
but Alboin, though unarmed and barely sober, was an an- 
tagonist of such strength and alertness, that the struggle 
might have gone hard with the Goth but for the interference 
of his mistress. 

Choosing a moment when Alboin's arms were raised to 
parry an impending thrust, she drove her spear with a 
mighty effort full at the king's uncovered breast. Instantly 
the bright vest was darkened with a crimson stream, and 
a yell of pain and fury burst from the lips of the wounded 
man. Grasping the haft of the lance with both hands he 
sprang blindly forward, and wrenched the weapon from his 
wound. The blood spurted forth with redoubled violence, 
a terrible shiver convulsed his limbs, he collapsed, groaned, 
and dropped upon his face. The spear of Thurismund had 
done its destined work with awful fidelity, and the Lombard 
hero, who had cheated Death on a hundred battle-fields, sank 
pierced to the heart upon the floor of his bed-chamber, to 
breathe his last at a woman's feet ! 

So grim at times is the irony of that fate which governs 
great men's histories ! 

Rosamunda turned from the corpse of the man she had 
slain to look in her lover's face. Laying her hand softly in 
his, she said, " Now at last, Helmichis, I am free. My work 
is accomplished, my father's house is avenged, — Rosamunda 
is thine ! " 

The Goth remained silent. He bent his head and kissed 
the hand she had given him. 



AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. 55 

In the courtyard beneath, the sound of horses' hoofs broke 
the stillness of the early dawn. 

" Listen ! " said the queen, raising her hand, " they are 
there awaiting us, — Peredeus and Thorelil. Quick, Helmi- 
chis ! the new day is already bright over-head ; it is time our 
journey were begun. Once within the gates of Ravenna we 
may laugh the Lombards to scorn ! " 

** Alas ! Rosamunda," murmured the Gepide chief, as they 
passed the chamber threshold together, " thou hast this day 
lost a kingdom for my sake I " 

She answered, looking tenderly upon him, "Yet, though 
men's- tongues may call me queen no longer, I have gained 
a better sovereignty over the heart of my love ! " 

So she spoke, not knowing that fortune had already 
decreed to her the crown and the purple of Ravenna ! 



THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 




CHAPTER I. 

|OME hither, sweetheart, sit by my side, and listen to 
me, for I am going to tell you a story of things that 
happened long ago — very long ago, — far back in those 
grand days of Art, when Greece was rich in her teachers 
and schools, when the painters painted and the poets sang, 
and wise old Plato taught on the hill of Sunium. 

For in those golden times there was in the city of Sicyon, 
in Argolis, a famous school of painting, the first and most 
renowned in Greece ; and thither were sent many youths of 
noble families, that they might learn the use of the cestrum, 
the exclusive privilege of the free-born. 

So, one fair spring day, somewhere about the year 385 B.C., 
the streets of Sicyon were all astir with people passing to 
and fro, and jostling one another as they went and came. 
For it was still early in the morning, and the merchants 
were on their way to their stores, and the housewives to 
the market, and the scholars to their academies. And 
among these last were three young men, of whom the 
youngest seemed scarcely more than twenty, — fellow-pupils 
in the school of the painter Pamphilus, who was then the 
greatest master of his art in all Southern Greece. 

These three were Apelles, Melanthius, and Pausias — men 
whose works have long, long ago made their names glorious 
in the history of grand old Greece. But they were young 
and unknown then, and people passed them by without 
notice, as you and I, sweetheart, are passed in the streets 
now. But who knows what you and I carry about with 
us in our hearts, and who can possibly divine what wonder- 
ful things we may some day do ? 

And so it was then with these three painters, who years 
afterwards made all the world so ring with their praise that 
the echoes of it have not passed away yet ; and never will, 
until men leave off loving art and science and all fair and 
beautiful things. 

Now as these three went on their way they talked as all 
scholars talk, — of their studies and of their master ; and one 
told how he had been commended for his industry, and an- 
other boasted of his success and skill, or bantered his com- 
panions on their failures. 



58 THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 

*' Prithee tell me what you paint to-day, Melanthius ; " 
cried the fair-haired Pausias, with a sidelong glance at his 
companion out of the comers of his mischievous blue eyes. 
" Are we to be favoured again with the sight of that woe- 
begone Ariadne of yours, or may we hope Dionysius will 
come and fetch her away before nightfall ? Methinks if the 
disconsolate maiden herself had waited half so long alone 
at Naxos as her effigy has waited in solitude upon your 
canvas, she had been dead before the wine-king found her." 

" Indeed, I marvel much at your impertinence, Pausias,*^ 
responded Melanthius, laughing ; " for methinks the jest 
might well be turned against you ! Pray how much longer do 
you intend to dabble over that ill-fated head of Cytherea? 
Bah! I assure you the mere thought of the thing makes 
me quite faint ! But, heyday ! What have we here ? " he 
added, with an air of surprise, and suddenly stopping him- 
self and his companions : " the goddess in person, I believe ! 
or perhaps I should rather say the ambrosial Chloris ■ herself, 
in the midst of her flowery kingdom !*' 

For there stood beside them, just at the doors of the 
Sicyon academy, a young peasant -girl with fair hair and 
soft brown eyes, like heifers' eyes to look at for their depth 
and tenderness, and across her shoulder was slung a wicker- 
basket filled with bunches of wild-flowers, and bright-coloured 
garlands. 

Very shyly she looked up into their merry faces, that fair 
flower-girl, and shyly she held out to them a cluster of white 
lilies, all heavy with drowsy dew. 

"What, you want to sell the ensigns of your royalty, 
Queen Chloris, do you ? " Melanthius asked her smilingly, 
as he took the flowers she offered him ; " well, then, I 
suppose we must all adorn our desirable persons with some 
of these most costly treasures. But what are those you 
wear in your dress, fair Chloris ? I see no others like them 
in all your store." 

"They are roses, sir," she answered him timidly, "and 
I did not mean to sell them, but to keep them for my 
mother at home, because they are the first I have found 
this year, and my mother loves roses. And my name is 
not Chloris, but Glycera." 

" It is a pretty name," he said, " and well befits its owner, 
for she, methinks, seems as fair as the flowers she carries. 
But tell me, Glycera, if I may call you so, are you not 
a stranger in this town, for I do not remember to have seen 
you here before, and yours is a face not easily forgotten ?" 

Then she answered him, blushing as she spoke, "I am 
no stranger in Sicyon, fair sir, for we have lived here all 

• The Grecian Flora. 



THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 59 

our lives — I and my mother; but this is the first day I 
have sold flowers in the streets. This morning I went 
out early into the woods, down by the banks of the river, 
to gather the wild amaracus, and the yellow-leaved lotus 
and asphodel. But these red roses I found far away in 
a glen between the hills, and I have only one bunch of 
them. But if you have a mind for flowers, here are wreaths 
of a thousand hues." 

Then Apelles answered her, laughing, " Give me a bunch 
of your purple berries, Glycera ; these many-coloured gar- 
lands befit not such grave students as we are. And you, 
Pausias, what say you ? " he added, turning to the younger 
of his two companions, " are you for flowers or berries } " 

And Pausias said, " Flowers and berries are all sweet 
enough, but these red roses eclipse them all. Look, maiden, 
I will give you this silver coin if you will only spare me one 
of your roses." 

Then she looked up quickly, and met his bright blue eyes 
fixed full upon her face, and there was so strange a look in 
them that her heart beat fast, and her eyelids drooped, and 
she dared not raise them again while she made reply : — 

"Fair sir, I will not sell the first-fruits of my glen for 
money. If you love the roses, take them, they are yours." 

And with that she plucked them from her bosom and put 
them into his hand, and turned and went on her way. But 
Pausias spoke no word. 



CHAPTER II. 

The day was fast drawing to its close, and the crimson 
sun flared like a beacon of fire above the western hills. And 
out on the open plains beyond the town, a group of merry 
peasant youths and maidens had gathered to enjoy their 
evening sports. 

" Glycera I Glycera ! " cried a dozen voices in musical 
chorus, " come quickly, we wait for you ! Your basket 
is emptied, your day's work is done ; come and join us I" 

But the flower-girl only shook her head, and passed them 
by. " I cannot come to-night," she said, " you must dance 
without' me, for I am going home." 

What ailed Glycera that evening, that she chose the lonely 
little footpath down by the river, far away out of the sound 
of the dance, and the merry voices of her companions ? And 
when she reached her home, why did she leave her distaff 
and spindle all untouched, to sit alone by her chamber-lattice 
silent and saddened ? 



60 THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 

And what, too, all that day had ailed the youth Pausias, 
that he failed at his work, and spoiled his picture, and drew 
upon himself the eyes of all the pupils, and the censure of 
the stem Pamphilus? What ailed him, when school was 
over, and he went home at evening to his friends, that he 
joined in no jest and laughter as he had been wont to 
do ; but sat apart from all the rest, as though he were in 
a dream ? 

Ah, me ! it was that old, old story, that has been told so 
many times over, ever since the beginning, and will be told 
again and again in thousand, thousand different lives, until 
the world shall be no more. 

For Pausias and Glycera loved one another. 



CHAPTER III. 

" Pausias ! Pausias ! you will never be a painter ! " 

And Pamphilus sighed as he spoke, for his youngest pupil 
was his own especial /r^?/^^^, and the old master loved him 
well, and was not a little proud of his genius. But of late, 
day after day, the youth had failed in his studies, his com- 
positions were lifeless and feeble, and his hand had lost 
its skill. 

Then when Pausias heard those sorrowful words, he pushed 
away his easel from him, and looked into his master's face, 
while the tears grew thickly in his great blue eyes. And 
Pamphilus took him by the hand, and gazed at him some 
time in silence, and then he answered him again, — 

" Child, I spoke harshly to you, and in haste. I did you 
wrong, for your face is pale, and your lips white — you are 
ill, and must not work. Leave your painting, my son, and 
go out into the woods for a while, — the fresh air from the 
river will bring the colour back into your cheeks, and put 
new strength into your veins." 

So Pausias left his work and his companions, and went 
out alone into the streets, but he looked in vain for the 
flower - maiden ; Glycera was not at her post. Then he 
passed on sadly through the town, away into the meadows 
beyond, and into a little coppice in the hollow of the hills. 
And there he sat down alone upon the soft grass, beneath 
the shadow of the pine-trees, and tossed away his hat and 
cloak from him, that he might rest his head upon his hands, 
and look up dreamily through the quivering foliage at the 
blue sky above him. And his thoughts were all about the 
beautiful Glycera, and her soft brown eyes, and her fair face 
and pleasant smile ; and from the folds of his robe he took 



THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON; 6l 

out a little bunch of withered red roses, and kissed them, 
because the flower-girl had worn them on her bosom. 

But presently, while still he held the roses in his hand, 
there came through the wood the sweet voice of a woman, 
singing. 

And Pausias listened while she came nearer and nearer 
yet ; and still she sang, till all the wood was filled with the 
soft music, and the birds were silent on the branches for 
very wonder and delight. And these were the words she. 
sang: — 

" O fair, very fair and glorious is the broad world. 
And all fuU of sunlight is the blinding and infinite blue ; 
Earth and heaven are beautiful in their perfect peace, 
But my soul within me is all a turbulent sea of love ! 
O my love ! I behold you everywhere by night and by day ; 
In my dreams you are with me through the darkness, and when 

I awake you abide still in my heart ; 
Never a thing I do but I do it for you who cannot see me, never 

a word I speak but I speak it for you who hear me not : 
O me ! love is very sweet and sorrowful, but the pulses of the great 

earth beat continually to the music of love ! 
Is there anything stronger and mightier than love, that overcometh 

alike gods and men ? 
Answer me, ye beautiful flowers of the forest, ye amorous trees that 

overhead tenderly embrace one another ! 
Alas ! I behold you happy in perfect possession ; 
But my soul, my soul is all a turbulent sea of love ! *' 

Then Pausias rose up wondering, and the hot crimson 
came and went in his cheeks, as he stood beneath the tall 
pines and listened for more. And suddenly from the shadow 
of the dark trees the form of the beautiful Glycera came out 
into the sunlight, and the young man's heart leapt up into 
his throat for joy. 

Her hands were full of flowers and bright berries, and the 
tremulous leaves of the scarlet acanthus and the daffodil 
nodded upon her fair forehead. And, while Pausias stood 
and watched her still, and longed once again to hear her 
sing, she sat down to rest in the warm light upon the stem 
of a fallen tree all bound about with clambering ivy and soft 
tender mosses. 

Then she began to make a garland of the flowers she had 
gathered, and anon while she wove them she talked dreamily 
to herself, and anon she sang a snatch of drowsy rhyme, but 
Pausias listened always, underneath the tall pines. 

"Ah, well-a-day, dear flowers," she sighed, "you must 
comfort me now, for I have no one else to talk to about 
my sorrow. And though indeed I would give all the 
world, if it were mine, to see him, yet I dare not stand 
again by the doors of the school ; and to-day I shall not 
go at all into the streets, but sit here in the silence and 



62 THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 

think. Maybe my mother will chide me for my idleness, 
and what shall I say ? for I have no heart to stand to-day 
in the streets and sell, so this garland must needs be destined 
to brighten our own little chamber. Did they call him Pau- 
sias? I think it was Pausias. Well, it is a nobly- sounding 
name, and he, doubtless, is nobly born. O me! and I, — 
I am a peasant, and a flower-seller, and yet I love him more 
than all the world ! " And she hid her fair face in her hands, 
and wept. 

Then, when Pausias heard the words she spoke, his love 
grew all the mightier, and his soul burned within him like 
a great furnace of fire ; and he strode out into the sunshine, 
and stood before the maiden. But she dropped her garland, 
and would have fled, only that he caught her by her robe, 
and bade her stay, that they might sit together on that fallen 
tree, for, said he, '* I have much to say to you, Glycera." 

So they sat down, side by side, Pausias and Glycera, but 
for a while neither spoke. Then Pausias looked into her 
face, and said, — 

"Tell me truly, Glycera,— of whom spoke you just now, 
while you sat here alone and wove your flower- wreath ? " 

Then she blushed and hung down her head, for she 
thought, "I have betrayed myself through my foolish- 
ness, for I fancied none were near to hear me, and now 
he is making game of me, and will go to-morrow to his 
friends and tell them what I said, and they will laugh at 
me together, and I shall become a jest for all the town." 
So she answered not a word. 

But Pausias took both her hands into his, and read all her 
heart in her face, while the fitful colour came and went like 
flame beneath her fair skin. And he said, " Glycera, I heard 
you talking to yourself about me, and I know you love me. 
O Glycera ! only hear me, for / Xow^you!'* 

Then she looked up at him, and answered, " Do not mock 
me, fair sir, for I am poor and fatherless, and it is not fit that 
one like you should speak of love to a peasant-girl. For you 
have heard the things I said of you, and I cannot deny them ; 
but now leave me, and forget them all, and let me go my 
way, for I am a true woman, and it is not well my name 
should be a sport for noble youths." But her ey^s were dim 
and misty, and her voice faltered as she spoke. 

" Glycera, you must not leave me yet. I make no sport 
of you, for I, too, have a true heart, and I speak the truth to 
you. It is nothing to me that you are poor or unknown. 
Am not I noble? and cannot I make my bride what I will? 
Glycera, I have loved you since that day I saw you in the 
streets, selling flowers by the doors of our school. See, here 
are the roses you gave me then ; I have carried them about 



THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 63 

with me every day, and I have not lost a single flower. For 
I love you, I love you, Glycera, as the flowers love the sun, 
and as the immortals love heaven." 

Then she bowed her head upon his shoulder, and told him 
all her heart ; and Pausias kissed her, and spoke sweet words 
to her, and they sat there together, hand in hand, for many 
a happy hour, till the sun dipped down behind the purple 
hills, and the birds went to sleep in their nests. 

Ah, sweetheart, love is very beautiful, and the world is 
everywhere full of it! It is the one great poem that has 
been sung by all living things through all ages, since Chaos 
himself became musical through love. And it dwells for 
ever and for ever, in all inconceivable fulness, within the 
heart of the Universal Father, from whom all things take 
their being. And some day they say that great Father 
will gather all the whole world into His infinite love, and 
there will be no more tyranny and strife, and envying and 
hatred, but all men will be brothers, and He above alL But 
whenever that glorious day may be, sweetheart, and how 
it may be brought upon us, we cannot tell, nor shall we be 
able to tell until it comes. Only of this one thing we may 
be sure, that when it does come it will be all the sweeter, 
and all the more beautiful to those who have waited and 
longed, and hoped and lived for it. 



CHAPTER IV. 

Pleasantly and dreamily sang the waves on the reedy 
shore of the river Asopus, and the garrulous wood-birds 
chattered and screamed to each other on the swinging 
branches of the tall oaks and the plane-trees. 

Pausias and Glycera sat together on the sunny slopes 
down by the water, and the flower-girl's basket, newly filled, 
stood beside her, for it was early morning, and her day's 
work was not begun, nor was it yet time for the young 
student to present himself at the schools. So they sat and 
talked there, these two, as lovers always talk together, and 
she told him all her thoughts, and all the things that had 
befallen her since last they parted, and he spoke to her of 
his painting, and his hopes, and fears, and disappointments. 

And they were very, very happy — so happy that it would 
be quite impossible for any one who never himself loved to 
imagine haw happy they were. 

"Do you know, Glycera," said Pausias, presently, after 
a little silence between them, " I cannot paint now as I used 
to do before I saw you, for your face always comes between 



64 THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 

me and my picture, and I cannot draw rightly for thinking 
of you. And, yesterday, I put in brown eyes for my Pallas 
Atheni, and, when Pamphilus asked me the reason why they 
were not blue, I had nothing to say, so I twisted and fidgeted 
about, until I spilt all my colours on the floor, and Melan- 
thius laughed at me, and I felt stupid and foolish before 
them all. And I know Pamphilus thinks I shall never 
learn to paint, for now he often sighs, and looks sorrow- 
ful and disheartened when he comes and watches me at 
my work." 

" If that be so, then, Pausias," she answered, " why don't 
you paint me ? You might come here early every morning, 
and in the evening, too, for the days are long and sunny, and 
I would sit by you under the trees, and you could make 
a picture of me, and shew it to your master, that he might 
see you are a true genius after all. Will you do this, 
Pausias }" And she nestled closely up to his side, and looked 
nto his eyes, and waited for him to speak. 

Then he laughed and said, " Glycera, you talk like Apollo's 
priestess herself; and truly, darling, you are my oracle, and 
you shall be obeyed. For I think your idea is a very wise 
and clever one, and I will bring my canvas and my tools here 
early to-morrow, if you will come too, for this is a quiet little 
spot, where no one can see us, and then I will begin my 
picture. What shall I call it, Glycera } — the ' Queen of the 
Flowers,' or the ' Sovereign Nymph of the Sicyonic Woods ?'" 

" Wait until it is finished, most impatient Pausias," she said, 
laughing ; " it will not do, you know, to try weaving the 
garland before the flowers are plucked !" 

" Every shell on the sea-shore sounds of the sea," returned 
he, slyly, " and every man talks of his trade ; and so you, my 
dear Glycera, when you want a simile, must needs look for 
it in your own flower-basket !" 

Then they laughed together, and made merry jests, until 
the sun began to climb up high in the clear blue, and it was 
time for Pausias and Glycera to go to their work. So the 
flower-girl rose and took up her basket, and Pausias helped 
her to fasten it on her shoulder, and they kissed one another, 
and parted and went upon their ways merrily. 




CHAPTER V. 

"You are late this morning, Pausias," cried Melanthius, 
meeting his companion at the door of their academy ; " Pam- 
philus has been in the studio full half-an-hour, so that Apelles 
and I began to imagine you must have drowned yourself 



THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 65 

in the river, or have gone, like another Hylas, to visit 
the golden-haired Naiades, and we were very properly dis- 
tressed in consequence. Indeed, I am not quite sure that 
Apelles has not washed out his painting with his tears ; and, 
as for myself, you behold in me a masculine Niobe! Well 
indeed, it is that you have at length burst like a sunbeam 
upon my failing sight, and saved me from weeping myself 
into an insensible stone, out of grief for the loss of you ! But 
what have you there, shrouded so carefully from the profane 
and common gaze, in the folds of your cloak ? Oh ho !" con- 
tinued the merry young student, in a bantering tone, " a pic- 
ture ! So we have been working at home like an industrious 
pupil, have we ? And pray what may be the result of our 
labours? Is it a second edition of the fair Cytherea, or 
a masterly portrait of the blue-eyed Pallas? No, I crave 
your forgiveness — I meant drown-eyed ; for I mind me how 
your most admirable modesty prevents your attributing to 
the virgin goddess orbs of vision resembling your own in 
hue. Why, heyday, Pausias, what are you blushing at? 
Pray do not turn quite scarlet all over, or Pamphilus will 
be apt to imagine you are a rather large cake of vermillion, 
and rub his brushes on you by mistake!" And shrugging 
his shoulders and laughing merrily, Melanthius led the way 
into the hall where Pamphilus and his pupils were at work. 

Then Pamphilus looked up as the two young men entered, 
and said sadly — 

" Why came you not hither sooner, Pausias ? You work 
not so cunningly, nor so fast, that you can afford to waste 
your time ; this is not well, my child." 

But Pausias laid upon his easel the picture he had brought, 
and answered gently, " Master, I am sorry that I have de- 
served your reproofs, but my picture is heavy to carry, and 
I had far to come. But now see, for I have toiled hard at 
this painting that I might win back for myself your love 
and your praise. What think you, master — is it well ?'• 

And he drew the covering from his picture, and looked 
into the old man's face. 

Then there was silence, while Pamphilus stood motionless 
and gazed at the painting before him, and his pupils rose 
astonished, but Apelles and Melanthius looked at one an- 
other wondering. 

For the picture was the picture of Glycera, crowned with 
red dewy roses, and her hands full of bright rainbow-coloured 
garlands. 

Then Pamphilus turned, and uncovered his white locks, and 
Stood bare-headed before his pupil Pausias. " My son," he 
said, — and all the school stood hushed and still while he 
spoke, — " genius is reverenced alike of gods and men, for only 

F 



66 THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 

genius makes the young man greater than the aged, — the 
learner wiser than his teacher. You have wrought here 
a work, Pausias, which will live through many broad years 
to come, and make your name famous through all Greece, 
long after you and yours shall have passed away out of 
the memory of the living. Child, you have gladdened my 
heart, and made me proud to-day, for I can see how, in the 
dim far-off future, you will stand high and glorious among 
the great ones of our land, historians shall write of your 
cunning and your skill, and minstrels sing your praise; nor 
shall I be forgotten then, who taught the painter Paustas t" 

Then all the pupils shouted for wonder and surprise, and 
ran together into the midst of the hall, where Pausias stood 
by his picture, and one clasped him by the hand, and an- 
other by the shoulder, and all wished him joy and were 
pleased at his pleasure, for every one loved Pausias well. 

But only Apelles and Melanthius knew who was the 
original of that beautiful picture. 



CHAPTER VI. 

Very fair and sunny had been the long summer day, and 
bright and clear the broad deep sky ; but now evening was 
come, and the sun sank red and lurid behind the town, and 
out away to the windward were piled great masses of dark 
thunder-cloud, that presaged a mighty storm. 

But Pamphilus strolled along the path by the river with 
his friend Brietes, the father of Pausias, and the cool breeze 
came up from the water, and the bright glow of sunset 
danced upon the waves, and neither knew what lay behind 
them. For the master talked of his favourite pupil, and 
the father of his only son. 
What were they saying .' 

" Friend Brietes, you speak wisely and well ; and though 
indeed I am loth to part with the lad, yet I believe the 
parting will be for good. For of late his health has failed 
from day to day, and his face has grown pale, and, though 
he is still merry and laughter-loving as ever, yet sometimes 
methinks I catdi a shade upon his brow and a sadness upon 
" " t lips that were not wont to be there. And at Athens he 
B new things, and fresh faces, and his picture will gain 
at honour, and who knows what noble wealth and. 
;, it is well the boy should go." 
^answered him, " I am glad indeed, my good 
' t counsel and advice of you in this 
that what you say is saJd 




THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 6/ 

for the good both of me and of my boy, whom you have 
always loved well, I know. For Pausias is my only son, 
and all my soul is wrapt up in him and in his welfare, and 
I have a twofold reason for the thing I do. For look you 
now, Pamphilus, how all here who have seen his painting 
wonder at it ; and at Athens, then, what renown and fame 
would it not bring him, where genius and talent are always 
applauded ! O Pamphilus, my soul grows great with pride 
and hope when I think how he may build himself a noble 
name there some day! And he is ill too, and needs rest 
and change, for he looks strangely and sad at times. And 
every morning early, and again at eventide, he slips away 
alone into the woods, and there doubtless he sits and broods 
and muses over I know not what foolish fancies. The boy 
is ill, Pamphilus, I know, and far better away at Athens 
for a while." 

But all this time, while they said these things to each 
other, Brietes and Pamphilus were coming nearer and nearer 
to two who sat together on the green slopes by the river, 
— a young student and a flower-girl. And these two were 
talking together, also very earnestly, but the words they 
spoke to one another were all of love. 

"O Pausias!" she said, laying her golden-haired head 
upon his shoulder, " if only I could be sure you care for me 
with all your heart, I think I should be quite happy. For 
then I would not mind the worst that could befall us ; 
I could endure anything for your sake; and it would be 
enough of happiness to know your love always steadfast 
and unchanged." 

"Glycera! Glycera!" he answered her, and there was 
pride in his voice and love in his blue eyes while he spoke, 
"I cannot bear that you should doubt me still, after all 
that has passed between us, day after day, for so long. 
For, O my darling, I swear to you to love you with all my 
heart and for ever ! Only promise me, Glycera, that you will 
be brave and true, and all things will be well." 

Then she laid her hands in his, and kissed him, and pro-, 
mised. But, even while she spoke, the rolling thunder rose, 
and shook, and died wailing in echo after echo far away 
beyond the western hills. 

Was it an evil omen ? 

Then they started to their feet, Pausias and Glycera, and 
turned, and saw behind them the high dark folds of swirl- 
ing cloud that grew and spread minute by minute up the 
purpling sky. 

. "Glycera, there is going to be a dreadful storm to-night; 
but, if we go home now, we shall be safe enough, for the 
dottds are yet far northward, and the wind is still, and they 

F 2 



68 THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 

cannot rise overhead for an hour or more. Come, darting, 
while there is time." 

So they climbed together up the steep slippery banks of 
the river, and gained the footpath above, and passed on 
swiftly towards the town. But presently, just at the comer 
of the road where it wound serpent-like round the foot of 
a high mound, Pausias heard voices speaking, and he started, 
and turned pale. But Glycera saw the change in his counte- 
nance, and she laid her hand on his. 

"What ails you, Pausias?" she said. 

"O Glycera! Glycera!" 

But he could say no more, for they stood face to face with 
Brietes and Pamphilus. 

" Pausias !" 

Then the two old men looked into the flower-girl's face, 
and they thought of the picture Pausias had painted, and 
understood it all. 

But the face of Brietes grew stem and angry, and there 
was a dark look in his eyes as he turned again to his son. 

"Pausias, who is this girl, and what do you here alone 
with her?" 

Then pausias drew Glycera's hand in his, and stood up 
proudly like a man, and answered proudly back, for he was 
no coward. 

"Father, this is Glycera, the flower-maiden, and she is 
good and gentle, and she has given me her love, for I love 
her, and would have her to be my wife." 

But the old man grew white, and made no reply, for his 
grief and anger choked the words in his throat ; so Pausias 
spoke again : — 

" My father, if I had wrought you some disgrace, or had 
done some shameful deed, I should not dare to stand before 
you, and speak to you as now I speak. But I have neither 
wronged you, nor any human soul, in this my love for one 
who is worthy to be the bride of a prince." 

Yet Brietes answered him roughly, for he was vexed and 
sorrowful. 

" Son, son, you talk like a silly boy and a fooL Twenty 
long years I have loved, and watched, and taught you, and 
besought the gods to spare to me my only son that he might 
live to be an honour and a glory to my house. And the 
g;oda heard my prayer, Pausias, and you lived on, and grew 
■jp fair, and tall, and stronfj ; and they gave you genius, and 
Kill, and a cunning hand, so that you became a pride and 

loy to my heart. And now I looked for the time when 

It (hould win yourself a noble bride, the daughter of some' 

t house, and I should see your wealth and prosperity, 

speak with envy w the happy painter Pausias. 




THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SlCYON. 69 

But to-day you have takeri away that pleasant hope out of 
my soul, — you have degraded your name, and dishonoured 
yourself and your art, and all for what? A pitiful prize 
indeed you have earned, son Pausias ! Let this street-pacing 
flower-seller go, for she shall never be daughter of mine !" 

Then when Pausias heard that, his heart heaved up in his 
breast with indignation, and his eyes flashed like living coals, 
and he drew Glycera the closer to him, — all trembling and 
pale for fear and shame. 

And " I care not," he cried, " for your noble brides and 
your wealthy heiresses ! I work not for them ; let them sit 
at home, and count their ancestors and their gold, for I will 
none of them! But beware, father, how you dare breathe 
a word against my blameless love, for she is pure as the 
snow from heaven ; and never one of those proud maidens 
you speak of could boast a fairer or a more stainless name 
than. she I" 

"Pausias! Pausias! you must be mad I" shrieked the old 
man, in his wrath, and the hot blood flared up in his face 
for anger, — " mad^ to speak to your father after this fashion I 
Know you not that I have power and authority over you in 
all things ? Ay, Pausias, and I will use my power too ; and 
you will thanic me for it some day to come I For, hear me, 
son, and trust me to keep my word ; to-morrow you go with 
me to Athenae. Your master knows that before now I had 
a mind to take you there, but now I am decided. You shall 
not be another day in Sicyon, Pausias, to idle away your 
time and your honour with flower-girls and garland-weavers ! 
As for her picture" — and his voice trembled, and sank again 
into something like tenderness — " I would indeed it had been 
any other than it is ! But since it is done, it is wondrously 
well done, and we will take it with us to Athenae. For there 
none need know it3 history nor your foolishness, and it shall 
earn you a meed of goodly praise. Answer me nothing, 
Pausias, and spare yourself the pains of entreating me, for 
my mind is made up, and my word is pledged, and nothing 
shall alter it" 

But the young man made answer boldly, for, though his 
heart was heavy for sorrow, and the big tears had put out 
all the flame in his eyes, yet he was still brave and strong, 
and knew that the time was come for him to play the man« 
For did not Glycera stand beside him, and look to him, and 
to him only, for help and for support ? So he said, " Father, 
I am indeed your son, and you must do with me what you 
wilL But know this — for I too have pledged my word to 
Glycera, and, by the gods, I will keep it! — that nothing, 
nothing in all the world shall ever make me change or 
falter, in my love for her. And I care not how broad the 



70 THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 

land, or how long the years, that divide us may be : I will 
be a true man, father, through all the evil that may come 
upon us, be it never so hard to bear, and the promise I have 
given I will not break/' 

Then Glycera minded not for Brietes or for Pamphilus, 
when she heard Pausias speak those words; but she fell 
upon his neck, and laid her head on his shoulder, and sobbed 
aloud for joy, and for sorrow, and pride, and love. 

But the white-haired Pamphilus shook his head sadly, and 
said, " Child ! child ! the sparrow sang to his love last spring 
— 'I will never leave thee!' but when the autumn came he 
fled away. And to-day methought I heard him singing to 
another mate the selfsame song !" 

There was a fearful storm that night over the city of 
Sicyon, and it lasted until the grey light of the morning 
grew in the sky, and the broad low sunrise broke beyond 
the dusky hills. 

And once again they met — Pausias and Glycera — all in 
the wind and the beating rain, and they kissed for the last 
time, and vowed — poor children ! — to be true and loving to 
each other always, come what would. 

And when they parted, Pausias took Glycera's hands into 
his own, and looked very earnestly in her face, and said — 

" Glycera, Glycera, all will be well yet, I know, if only we 
can have patience and courage to face our sorrow bravely. 
Promise me, love, to be true and fast to me always." 

And she answered, " Until death, darling — until death I" 




CHAPTER VII. 

Close by the open casement of a little dark chamber 
that was all sweet with the odours of wild thyme and roses 
and almond blossom, Glycera lay alone upon a little wooden 
couch, and her lap was full of fair flowers and wreaths. 
Very pallid and wan was the beautiful face now, and all 
dreamy and lustreless the soft brown eyes, but their winning 
sweetness was not gone, for Glycera's soul looked out of 
them still. 

But the flower-girl had lost all her strength and her bright- 
ness, and her merry smile, nor was she able any longer to 
stand in the streets with her basket, and her mother watched 
her sadly while she drooped and faded day after day, but 
knew not the reason why. 
^ . For Pausias had been away at Athens since the last year'5 



THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. Jt 

summer, and notv it was summer again, but Glycera never 
heard any tidings of him, nor knew if he loved her stilL 

So she fell sick for sorrow and for failing hope and 
for longing to see him again ; and many a long day 
she lay by the lattice, and wove her garlands listlessly, for 
now her companions sold them for her in the town, since 
she was too feeble to go abroad. 

And while she lay there she made sweet rhymes, and 
sang them softly to herself, as was her wont when she was 
alone. And she sang of Pausias, and of her love for him, 
and her trust and patience, and she wondered if he were 
thinkii^ of her then, and when he would be able to come 
back again, and take her home to be his wife. 

And with the thought the colour stole for a moment into 
the pale thin face, and her eyes grew misty while she pictured 
in her heart the happiness and the sunshine that would be. 
"And I wonder," she thought, "what he will be like when 
I see him again, and if his eyes are as blue, and his hair 
as fair and as curly as ever! And I wonder if he will 
think me altered, and what he will say to me when we 
meet! Oh how handsome he is! and how good and brave 
it was of him to face for my sake his father's anger, and to 
forego all thought of winning himself a wealthy maiden for 
his wife, — for me, fne^ — a poor peasant-girl, who have nothing 
in the world to give him but my love 1" 

And then she laid her little trembling hands together, and 
prayed the gods to bless her Pausias, her noble Pausias, 
and make her day by day more worthy of him, that all her 
life long, — oh, all her life long ! — he might see how mightily 
she strove to deserve his love, and to be to him a true and 
faithful wife until their life's end. And presently the door 
was pushed open gently, and a bright rosy face looked into 
the room, and a pleasant voice said — 

" What, still at work, Glycera ? I fancied you might have 
been asleep, and I feared to wake you, so I came in softly, 
and left LaYs outside, waiting for me. See, your basket is 
empty, Glycera, — I did business famously to-day, for all 
the young men at the schools bought of me, because you 
know to-morrow their master gives them holiday, and their 
hall is to be decked with flowers in honour of the gala." 

"What gala, Myfrha?" said the flower-girl, looking up 
dreamily ; " I did not know anything was going on." 

"How now, Glycera!" returned her companion merrily, 
"hav'n't you heard the news? Everyone is talking about 
it ! Well, well, I don't see how you should know it, though, 
since you lie here all day long, and never see anybody. 
Give me that bunch of acacias you have in your lap, 
Glycera, and I can sit here, and twist up a chaplet while 



72 THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 

I tell you all about it. Why, then, the young student 
Pausias, — you know the name, don't you? he that made 
such a stir here more than a year ago by painting some 
wonderful picture or other, and then went off to Athenae 
with his father to make his fortune, — well, he is going to 
be married to-morrow. And they say his bride is one of the 
noblest and richest maidens in all Attica, and he is to bring 
her here to live with him and his father at their old home, 
and all the town is full of the tidings! And you'll have 
plenty to do, Glycera, when they come, for there'll be feasts 
and dances given to all the town, and we shall have gar- 
lands hanging from every window! So you must make 
haste and get well again as fast as possible, that you may 
be able to work the better, and dance with us all, and play 
games in the meadow. But do you know, Glycera, I saw 
the painter Pamphilus to-day, for he came to buy a bunch 
of roses of me ; and when I spoke to him of Pausias, and 
asked him if he were not glad to hear such good news of 
his pupil, he only looked sorrowful, and murmured out 
something about a sparrow and a new mate, and I know 
not what beside ! I think the old fellow is crazed or moon- 
struck ; for why else should he talk so strangely, and look 
so pitiful and sad when everyone else is merry? There, 
Glycera, now the story is told ; and look, I have just finished 
the wreath, all but, — why, Glycera! Glycera! what have I 
done ? — what ails you, sweet ? Why don't you speak to me ? 
— O LaYs! Lais! come, come quickly! What shall I do!'* 
For the garland she had been weaving had fallen from 
the flower-girl's hands, and her eyes were strange and 
glassy, and a spasm passed across her lips as if of sharp, 
sudden pain. 

But Glycera's mother had heard the cry in the inner 
chamber where she sat spinning, and she left her distaff 
and. came in haste, and found Myrrha and LaYs, and Glycera 
lying motionless and white on her pillows. 

O sweetheart! my story is common enough, I know, for 
things like this happen somewhere every day. And most 
men and women live through them, and wear their sorrow 
out ; for life is sweet, and hearts are hard to break, — ^but yet 
with some it is otherwise. So they came and stood beside 
her, — those three, — all hushed and wondering, and she held 
out her hands to them, and looked up at their sad faces, and 
tried to smile, but the smile would not come. 

Ah, Pausias, where were then your vows, and your promises, 
and your unchanging love ? Poor boy ! you loved once in- 
deed very truly and sincerely ; but then you forgot all about 
it long ago, and thought, no doubt, that the little flower-girl 
had forgotten it too. What if you could have stood then in 



THE FLOWER-GIRL OF SICYON. 73 

that little dark room, and could have seen what was going 
on there ? 

Then that poor mother stooped down weeping, and kissed 
the white forehead, and cried out bitterly in her sorrow, 
" O my darling ! my darling ! if they take you away from 
me, I shall break my heart! For you are all I have left 
to me now in the world, and I have no one else to love but 
you ! O me, must I live without you, my dear, dear child ?" 

There lay among the flowers in Glycera's lap a little knot 
of red roses. And she took them up gently, and laid them 
upon her bosom, and folded her hands over them, and turned 
her face towards the window. Then her eyes closed wearily, 
and her white lips moved a moment while she whispered 
something to herself. They knelt beside her, and listened 
earnestly for the broken words. And they were these, — 

"Until death, — love, — until — death, — true and fast, — 
true—." 

And then there was silence. 

But, just as that last word was spoken, there came through 
the lattice a single ray of bright ruddy light from the setting 
sun. And it fell full upon the white face and golden hair, 
and lit them up with misty glory. And then little by little 
it faded away and was jgone, and all was darkness. 

Sweetheart, — my story is told. 



A CLUSTER OF FLOWERS. 



The Crocus . . . . . Spring. 

The Rose Summer. 

The Water- Reeds .... Autumn. 

The Marigold Winter. 




THE CROCUS, 

** Temperance is a bridle of gold ; he who uses it rightly is more like a god 
than a man." — Burton. 

HAD been long ill. All the dreary winter months 
had been spent by me on a sick bed, and it was 
already spring weather when at length my friends 
suffered me to emerge from my imprisonment, and to take 
my accustomed place in the family sitting-room. 

Flowers were peering above the hard earth in the garden- 
beds, and here and there a bee hummed across the lawn, 
but the air was still bleak, and no one listened to my petition, 
*' for a walk in the sunshine." So I betook myself instead 
to a little conservatory connected with our parlour, and there 
having ensconced myself luxuriously in my arm-chair with 
my favourite book within reach, I fell into a reverie. At 
my feet, in a long porcelain box, bloomed a row of yellow 
crocuses, upon whose gay petals streamed a bright sun-ray, 
illumining them with a still richer gold than their own, and 
attracting my attention forcibly to their wealth of colour and 
beauty. And I, — always fond of mystic speculation, and 
now, perhaps in this first day of convalescence, unusually 
predisposed towards it, — fell, little by little, into a reverie 
over the symbolism of the beautiful flowers with which God 
so lavishly decks our earthly heritage ; a symbolism which 
we, dimly apprehending, have sought to express and trans- 
late into common meaning, in our fanciful "language of 
flowers." In that pretty poetic glossary, I knew that the 
crocus was adopted as the emblem of cheerfulness, and 
it was easy enough to perceive in the smiling aspect of the 
golden blooms before me, in what manner the connection 
between the earthbom type and its spiritual signification 
had been established. But this mere fantasy of corre- 
spondence between colour and quality did not satisfy me. 
I wished to explore the idea I had conceived to its utmost 
depth, and with this end in view I turned my thoughts on 
the nature of cheerfulness itself, and sought among its many 
manifestations for some clue to its true source. "What," 
I asked myself, " is that condition of spirit which engenders 
cheerfulness?" The answers I returned myself were vague, 
— religion — a good conscience — health of mind, — all these 
seemed to me synonyms for general virtue. Then I called 
to my remembrance the classical story of the origin of the 
crocus^ if perchance I might find in its details some indica- 
tion of a mystical significance. But in vain ; and so with 



78 THE CROCUS. 

my thoughts full of old-world mythologies, and of modern 
speculation, I yielded myself insensibly to the drowsy in- 
fluence of the warm sunshine, and dropped into a pleasant 
sleep. And sleep suggested to me the parable I had vainly 
attempted to weave in my wakeful moments, — a parable 
tinctured indeed with my former conjectures, but so wonder- 
fully connected in its parts, and didactic in its signification, 
that on awaking, I deemed it wprth while to write out the 
story of my dream as follows. 

I thought I found myself standing in the very core and 
centre of a brilliant sunrise glory : in the midst of a dancing, 
sparkling, happy brightness, that bathed my face like the 
light of a summer's morning, and tinted my dress with 
a sheen as of gold. And before me an apparition came out 
of the impalpable air, taking a misty substance and gather- 
ing shape and features like a cloud, — a fair spirit, radiant- 
eyed and buoyant, whose very presence distilled an at- 
mosphere of warmth and genial kindliness. In the sweet 
wise countenance of the phantom, I noted an expression of 
homely grace, a human sympathy that freed me at once 
from all sense of awe and set me altogether at ease in the 
strange Presence. Then I perceived, as I looked steadily 
upon this bright spirit, that all her slender form and shining 
yellow robes, were illumined with the flame of a lamp which 
she carried within her transparent vest And while I 
wondered at the sight, a clear childlike voice, less like music 
and more like a voice than I should have fancied possible 
to hear from such ethereal lips, addressed me thus in answer 
to my thoughts : — 

" Daughter of earth, you know me well, I am the Spirit of 
the Crocus, the flower which is the emblem of cheerfulness. 
And I am cheerful because I am temperate. For it is 
temperance only that is able to beget true health of mind 
and of body, whence arises that joy and peace which no 
immoderate man can obtain. For cheerfulness, so precious 
in value, so pure in consistency, so attractive in brightness, 
so durable in quality, is indeed most fltly likened to reflned 
and burnished gold, — a gold which cannot be bought by any 
wealth of earth, nor garnered by any avarice. And here, 
beneath my vesture, I bear in my bosom the light of the 
tJiird holy Fire which bums before the Throne of God in 
heaven*, the Spirit of Counsel, which gives wariness of 
choice, and pnsidence, and power of judgment, and wise 
advice, adorning the blessed company of confessors in the 
Jsingdom of the Lord, with the grace of godliness, and 
giving to men of lowlier life the virtue of moderation and of 

• Ret. hr. 5. 



THE CROCUS. 79 

self-cdntrol. For it is evident that a just regulation of life 
can proceed only from a right apprehension of its ends and 
its significance." 

She paused, floating before me in the sunny lustre that 
surrounded her; and, looking into her soft smiling eyes, 
I took occasion to praise her delicate beauty, and the golden 
brightness of her floating flower-like robe. 

** Yet," she rejoined gently, " the crocus is not merely fair 
to the eye, it has its hidden virtues and uses, and these are 
the similitudes of Temperance. For its chives and filaments 
yield the golden saffron, with which in old times the Romans 
dyed the sacred garments of their augers, and the marriage 
veils of their maidens ; because to the Seer, yellow is the 
colour of counsel, and to the bride it is the emblem of glad- 
ness. And indeed, it was a very beautiful and significant 
custom that adorned the young wife with the vestment of 
cheerfulness and temperance. For it was a type that hence- 
forward her chief duty should be to make home a place 
of smiles, and to rule her household in moderation and 
health and sobriety. Therefore also, to all the nations of the 
earth, saffron has been a balsam of healing and of gladness, 
— the companion of cassia, frankincense, and spikenard, be- 
tokening the counsel of Christ to His Church, a fragrant 
and pleasant balm in the treasure-garden of His Kingdom \ 

"Yet more beside this I do, daughter of earth, for as 
a medicine I soothe, and warm, and sustain. I am an 
anodyne to assuage pain, I am a sudorific to reduce and 
temper, I am an aromatic cordial to comfort and invigorate. 
And all that I do for the body by means of extracted essence, 
tefnperance, whose symbol the crocus is, is able to do for 
the mind. For temperance is that virtue which like an ano- 
dyne allays the pangs of desire and intolerance, — like a su- 
dorific humbles, chastens and subdues, — like a cordial cheers, 
strengthens and diffuses a pleasant warmth of charity and 
kindliness, so that it trebly enriches with the graces of 
moderation, limit, and regularity. It is that virtue which 
levels and restrains the mind of man in such manner that 
he shall be neither too greatly elated by success, nor too 
much depressed by misfortune; it moderates his passions, 
rules his expectations, preserves his health, and secures him 
from the agitation with which the passing affairs of life 
affect the luxurious and misgoverned. Temperance is a 
continual law, and they who submit to its benign control 
are known by their unvarying cheerfulness, as the balm- 
yielding saffron is manifested by the bright garb of the 
crocus. Melancholy is the peculiar attribute of the lawless, 

^ Canticles ir. 14. 



k 



80 THE CROCUS. 

the special malady which most readily besets the irregular 
and the immoderate man. And yet, mistake not my mean- 
ing. Cheerfulness is not levity. It is simple ease. That 
mind is dissolute and ungovemed which must be hurried 
out of itself by loud laughter or sensual pleasure, or else be 
wholly inactive®.. But temperance, like the sun in a clear 
sky, diffuses throughout the mind which contains it, a per- 
vading and modulated lustre, which men call cheerfulness. 
Therefore mark that the most manifest sign of Divine wis- 
dom is continued cheerfulness^, since philosophy, by ex- 
posing the folly of regret, and by supplying the means of 
health, tempers the mind with an even warmth and bright- 
ness. And to add yet further testimony, remember these 
words long since written by one of your great men, * It is 
most becoming and most wise, so to temper gravity with 
cheerfulness, that the former may not imbue our minds with 
sadness, nor the latter sink into licentious living •.' " 

" Bright one," said I, seeing that she paused in her speech, 
" it seems to me that temperance is not so simple a matter 
as I had supposed ; to be thus truly temperate one must 
require continual thought and vigilance/' 

As I spoke I looked earnestly upon .the face of the Crocus 
Spirit, and saw that her ghostly eyes were fixed seriously 
upon me. 

" To be really temperate," she repeated slowly, " one must 
be continually thoughtful and continually vigilant, for as 
fortitude is the right endurance of pain, so temperance is the 
right endurance of pleasure. But now listen, for I will tell 
you a story about myself, and you shall judge therefrom 
of my value and of my mission upon earth. Long since 
it was given me to lighten with my helpful smile the mind 
of one whom the power of temperance made a king among 
mortal men." 

Then as the bright eyes of the Spirit turned towards the 
earth I marked that there came into their clear depths 
a passionate light of tender remembrance, and she stretched 
forth her shadowy arms as though to recall and clasp some 
dear and vanished past. And when again her sweet voice 
broke the silence, I fancied its tones were yet softer than 
before, as though a reverence for something hallowed and 
precious restrained their wonted gaiety. 

"Centuries ago," pursued the Spirit, *'I bloomed with 
many thousand others of my sister flowers upon the shadow- 
less downs of one of the Seven Hills of Rome. Before 
us lay the broad undulating reaches of the Campagna, rich 
in vivid colouring and splendid contrast, here purple and 

' Steele. * Montaigne. • Pliny. 



THE CROCUS, 8 1 

there saffron with beds of crocuses — for we love the open 
ground — and above us, unbroken by any intervening foliage, 
spread the open sky, sometimes like ourselves, purple in its 
intense blue, sometimes golden-hued with the glory of the 
southern sun-light 

" Early in the morning the flower-girls of Rome were wont 
to come out into the Campagna to gather blossoms for their 
chaplets and posies, and often, if they lighted on a tuft of 
fine blossoms, would dig up the whole plant, and transfer it 
to a painted or an earthen vase for the decoration of some 
patron's indoor flower-garden. And that, one of these 
wandering Floras did with me. She found me in the 
dawn of a certain misty morning, as she climbed the slopes, 
and darting upon me as upon a rare prize, loosened the 
light earth from my bulbous roots, and carried me off re- 
joicing, in a basket full of wreaths and flower-knots. She 
took me into the city, and wound her way swiftly through 
many narrow streets and alleys, eating her scanty breakfast 
as she went, till she came to the fashionable quarter of Rome, 
where she hoped to lighten her fragrant load ; and there, 
leaning against the corner pillar of a colonnade opposite 
to one of the most frequented thoroughfares, deposited her 
burden upon the pavement at her feet, and waited for 
customers. 

"For some time the only persons who passed that way 
were slaves from the great houses, who came abroad early 
to make purchases for the culinary needs of the establish- 
ments to which they respectively belonged. Many of them, 
especially the younger ones, stopped now and then to gossip 
with my flower-girl, and several bargained with her for a gar- 
land or a few blossoms to help in the adornment of cates and 
wine-beakers. Some white roses which lay beside me in the 
basket were all speedily sold, for the white rose was regarded 
by the Romans in old days as an emblem of secrecy, and for 
that reason they used it to ornament their drinking-cups and 
flagons, and frequently introduced its painted semblance into 
the fresco pictures of their banquet-rooms, as an admonition 
to the guests that nothing spoken or heard during the sym- 
posia should be repeated elsewhere. But crocuses were not 
the fashion, and though one or two of my Flora's clients con- 
descended to admire me, no one seemed anxious to become 
my purchaser, nor offered for me so much as a single sorry 
coin. I wondered, this being the case, why Flora had 
evinced so much delight at first sight of me, and to what 
end she had dug me up so carefully and borne me off with 
so much glee. * Perhaps,' I meditated, * I am reserved for 
a more dignified fate than that of festooning wine-vessels 
or crowning the brows of aristocratic topers. Certainly, such 
a destiny would be strangely ill-suited to my character J* 

G 




82 THE CROCUS. 

** While thus I speculated, a citizen, singular for his upright 
figure and artistic garb, crossed the square which fronted the 
colonnade, and approached the flower-girl. She seemed to 
brighten when she perceived him, and catching up her basket 
from the ground ran towards him, exclaiming joyfully, 

" * See, noble patron ! I have secured for you to-day such 
a root of yellow crocus as one does not often behold ! This 
very morning, on the Alban hills, I lighted on it! The 
colour is magnificent — you could wish no better !* 

" The man thus accosted took me in his hand, tenderly as 
though he really thought pie a sentient thing, examined me 
for a moment, then without more ado paid the price which 
the flower-girl named, and carried me away. He was a 
young man, hardly yet in his third decade, and the serenity 
and peace of his countenance gave it that peculiar beauty 
of expression which is so much more attractive than mere 
regularity of feature — the beauty of sweetness and light. 
Looking at his deep serious eyes, broad smooth brow, and 
the curved softened lines of his lips, it was easy to perceive 
that this man was both wise and happy. For the body is 
only the soul made visible, and every one carries his cha- 
racter on his face, written in type as legible to eyes which 
are able to read the writing of Nature, as those curious 
fragments of Hebrew scripture which the devout Pharisees 
were wont to fasten across their foreheads. 

" With a swift elastic step my new possessor traversed the 
broad squares and streets, pausing now and then to greet 
a passing acquaintance or to return the respectful salute of 
some household servitor. At length, in a narrow place, 
remote from the gardens, baths, and the statelier porticoes 
of the city, the man who had bought me arrested his steps 
on the threshold of a small unimportant looking building, 
and crossing its paved vestibule, entered the atrium, which 
I observed to be more artistic in its adornment than I should 
have anticipated from the exterior of the house and the in- 
different locality of its site. A curtain suspended before 
the entrance of an apartment communicating with the hall, 
was raised gently as my bearer advanced, and a young 
woman, with a beautiful face and radiant hair bound in the 
Grecian manner by a fillet of purple silk, appeared before us. 

"'Crocuses!' cried she gaily, — 'what fine blossoms! Are 
you going to paint them, my husband ?* 

'* With the same tender care he had before used in hand- 
ling me, he now placed the jar in which I was planted upon 
a stone pedestal in the tiny parterre which bounded the 
atrium, for in these old times most Roman houses occupied 
by citizens of the better class included in their precincts such 
indoor gardens. 

"'Yes, Irene. I have just bought them from a flower-girl 



THE CROCUS. 




THE CROCUS. 83 

opposite to the Forum. Some time ago I bade her look me 
out a cluster like this. I have an idea — to paint them as 
a background to my medallion head of Aglaia.* 

"'Too much colour! too much colour, my Felix!' said 
a voice behind him. It was that of a visitor who had 
entered the atrium unperceived, and who now approaching, 
saluted the master and mistress of the house with the familiar 
courtesy of an intimate acquaintance. 

"'Not so, my Luctus,' answered the other with a sober 
smile; 'clear colour when used judiciously is but the fit 
interpreter of bright thought. It is meet that the face of 
Aglaia should be encircled with gold, — the idea is ethical 
and didactic' 

" ' Felix,' said the visitor again, after a moment's pause, ' have 
you sent your designs yet to the villa of the Senator Crassus } ' 

" ' I took them there yesterday.' 

" Luctus flashed a keen glance at him. ' I also took mine 
yesterday,' said he. ' Perhaps,' he added, his voice faltering 
into huskiness, 'we shall hear the decision of the judges in 
a day or two. The artist to whom Crassus gives the pre- 
ference will indeed be a happy man ! Thy name, my Felix, 
is but an evil augury for me !' 

" There Irene interposed a gentle remonstrance. 

"'But perhaps,' said she, 'the senator may divide the 
favour? Perhaps he may commit to Felix the decoration 
of but part of his new villa, and to you, Luctus, the rest.' 

'"It seems then, fair Irene,' rejoined Luctus, with some 
bitterness, 'that you are at least assured of your husband's 
success ! But I cannot stay to discuss probabilities ; to-night 
I entertain my cousin, Laxus, and three of his friends. You 
will not be of our company, Felix ?' 

" ' Nay,' replied the other, shaking his head and smiling ; 
' I should be but a sorry guest at a table such as thine, my 
Luctus! Besides, I car^ not to leave Irene alone in the 
evening, with no companions save the slaves, while I make 
merry elsewhere.' 

*"Ah, I doubt not you are in the right,' cried Luctus, 
turning towards the portico; 'would that I too had as 
sweet a reason for remaining sober! We bachelors are 
but pitiable creatures, gay flies disporting ourselves in a 
treacherous sun, that by-and-by will singe our fine wings ! 
Farewell, charming lady!' Then he pursued in low tones 
which were not meant to reach the ear of the wife, ' Thou 
art too domestic for Rome, my Felix ! No man of any taste 
or style in these days lives at home! One's own house is 
for sleeping in — the houses of one's friends for all other 
uses! Wine and mirth, — these are the pleasures of man- 
hood, and life is a poor affair without them !' 

G 2 



84 THE CROCUS. 

*' But as he passed by the open casement a moment later, 
he looked envious and discontented, notwithstanding his pro- 
test against sobriety. 

" Scarcely had this brief conversation ended, when a page 
appeared in the outer vestibule, and being beckoned by 
Irene to enter, advanced and presented Felix with a letter 
written upon papyrus, and bearing an elaborate seal of im- 
posing dimensions. 

"*It is from my master, the Senator Crassus," said the 
messenger, delivering the packet; and retiring respectfully 
a few paces, he stood waiting for any reply that might be 
entrusted to him. The painter* opened the letter with calm* 
ness, but had scarcely glanced over the first two lines of it 
when his face shone with a great joy, and he cried aloud 
as he read, — 'Irene mine ! the choice hath fallen upon me J 
I am commanded to begin the frescoes if possible this very 
day ! Crassus hath also written to Luctus telling him of this 
decision ! " The best connoisseurs of art were consulted on 
the matter," writes the senator, and all unanimously gave 
their approval to my design. Ah, little wife! how happy 
lam!' 

"Indeed he looked the picture of happiness, as his wife, 
laying her hand fondly upon his, smiled up in his radiant 
face, and kissed him with a simple delight in his pleasure, 
that was better evidence of the love between them than a 
thousand passionate vows would have been. She said no 
word that I could hear, but congratulation between husband 
and wife needs not expression in uttered sound, — ^wedded 
spirits have sweeter ways of sympathy. Felix turned to 
the slave. 

" * Tell your lord,' said he, ' that at noon I shall do myself 
the honour to attend at his house.' 

"With that the messenger withdrew, and Irene and her 
husband retired into a little side chamber, which served, 
I suppose, as her boudoir, for the curtains that ordinarily 
screened it from the outer court were pushed aside, and 
I saw disposed within the room such feminine toys and 
garniture as women everywhere delight in, and a roll of 
embroidery, glowing with the sheen of web-like silks, lay 
outspread upon a tiny table in the centre of the apartment 
There the two sat together and talked, a little about them- 
selves, more about this new villa on the Pincian hill which 
Felix was to adorn with fresco-painting, and most about art 
and its relation to morality. From their discourse I gathered 
tliat my owner and his wife had been but lately married. 
Felix, visiting Athens for purposes of study, as it was cus- 
tomary for young Roman artists to do, had lodged in the 
house of Irene's uncle, a citizen of that great metropolis 



THE CROCUS. S5 

whose patroness was the wise goddess, Pallas, divine guardian 
of the arts, and queen of all loveliness and maiden grace. 
There Felix found Irene, for she lived then under her uncle's 
roof, having been an orphan since her childhood. And in 
her he found also the real and living Pallas of his heart, 
he loved the sweet mild face and pure soul of the Grecian 
girl, and from that day set himself to woo and win her. 
And she loved him, and he returned to Rome with Irene 
for his guardian and directress, and all that Pallas, the blue- 
eyed maid, was to the land of philosophy and beauty, Irene 
became to Felix the painter. She was indeed his peace, 
and he her happiness ! 

"About noon my painter went up to the villa of Crassus, 
the senator, and I saw nothing of him again until the evening, 
when he returned to his wife full of a great content, but so 
little flushed with his triumph that he rather seemed to me 
the humbler for it. 

"'Read me something out of the poets, sweet,' said he, 
'for I have a work before me now, and service to do for 
art, and I would fain store my mind with visions of the 
beautiful, that my hand may convey true images, and that 
my thoughts may have better power in creation, and my 
eyes in discernment.' 

"And Irene read and recited poem after poem in the 
sweet-flowing tongue of her own land, which has no equal 
in modern language, — tender Sapphics like the refluent 
music of the sea, graceful hexameters, and the stately 
melody of the Alcaic verse : for these things exalt and 
teach and refine the spirit of man. Felix Sobrius, as his 
companions were wont to call him in those days of pertinent 
appellations, knew that all worthy and precious art has its 
foundation in virtue, and is not merely a means of delight- 
ing the sense, but of educating the heart. Therefore also, 
he knew that no man can be a great artist who is not first 
inly great in idea, for art is the work, not of the hand 
alone, but of the whole man, and as he is, such likewise 
will be the thing he makes. ' Neither is it enough,' reasoned 
Felix, * to lay on colour ; one must have joy, and wonder, 
and reverence, and compassion of soul to make art di- 
dactic, mythic, endurable. Into the forms which his pencil 
creates, the maker must be able to breathe the breath of 
a * living soul.' 

" The days wore swiftly away in the home of Felix and 
Irene. Springtide drew towards summer, and the work at 
the villa on the Pincian hill went on steadily. And where 
still I bloomed like a tiny sun in the midst of the house, 
I saw and heard many things of the daily life about me, 
which I have no time to tell — others which I can touch 



86 THE CROCUS. 

upon but briefly. Now and then I saw Luctus in the atrium, 
but he always looked discontented and restless, always de- 
plored his destiny, always desired something he had not, 
and envied men whom he conceived to be more blessed 
than himself. 

"*I know not how it comes about, charming Irene/ said 
he, * that thine husband is so much luckier than I ! All 
Rome is beginning to talk about him and his paintings, 
while not one so much as knows my name, and yet the 
good gifts of fortune find no such welcome from him as 
I should give them! Is Felix invited to a banquet with 
some gay spirits ? behold he refuses to be of the party ; or 
IS a f^te proposed to do honour to his genius, he will have 
nothing to say to it ! He is always learning — learning, and 
never enjoys! While as for me, since the public does not 
give me my due, I treat myself perpetually. Never a night 
passes that I do not spend in the adoration of Bacchus, 
nor is there an expense I grudge to entertain my friends. 
Thus would I unite art with pleasure, — and lo! both elude 
me! I clasp only bitterness and melancholy! My wine is 
drugged with disappointment, — every cup is watered with 
disgust!' 

" The last fresco in the senator's villa was almost finished. 
It was an Idalian Oread reposing on a bed of crocuses, and 
I was carried up to the villa to serve as a model for this 
fancy, which Felix had already found successful in his treat- 
ment of the Aglaia. While he was at work late in the 
morning, and the picture neared its completion, Luctus 
lounged into the chamber, red-eyed and scarce sobered 
from the previous night's excesses, but as usual, voluble 
with complaint and grievance, which were in no wise di- 
minished by the sight of the painting before him. 

"'Apollo!' cried he, starting as he beheld it, while a sud- 
den light that flashed and died again in his dark eyes be- 
trayed his resentment, *you have indeed been industrious, 
my Felix ! What progress ! what colour ! what form 1 Was 
ever any man so fortunate in his undertakings 1' 

"With Luctus, good fortune was a synonym for genius, 
perseverance, or virtue. It was at least a comprehensive 
term. 

" * Have you heard/ he continued, lounging against a por- 
phyry column behind Felix, ' whether it is true that Crassus 
means to give a great banquet here shortly ? I was told so 
in the city to-day, and I came up here to ask if you know 
anything of it' 

"'Yes,' replied Felix. •It is quite true. I am working 
especially hard now to get this last fresco finished in time.' 

"'Ah?' responded Luctus, in a tone that seemed like 



THE CROCUS. 87 

a gasp for breath, so impossible was it to repress his spleen, 
* you know everything in Rome, my Felix, while other men 
can only surmise ! May be, you will also inform me who are 
the invited guests?' 

'* There is no secret about the affair, Luctus. The enter- 
tainment is to be most magnificent. The Emperor himself 
is expected, and nearly the whole of the Senate/ 

" * 'Tis a marvel that Crassus omitted to bid you also, my 
dear Felix, among such illustrious visitors.' 

** These words were accompanied with a sneer of so much 
malignity, that Felix could not fail to perceive the harshness 
it imparted to the tone of his companion's voice. 

** ' Crassus did invite me,' replied he with some pardonable 
acridity. 

"Luctus was beside himself with fury. He could not 
utter a syllable. 

"'But,' resumed Felix, 'I shall certainly decline to be 
present.' 

" ' Decline ! Heavens ! Felix are you a fool ?' 

" * I should merit the reproach of being one if I accepted 
the invitation,' returned the painter quickly. 'Crassus did 
me the courtesy to request my company, because I have 
helped to prepare for the entertainment by adorning his 
apartments, but his kindness would not justify me for in- 
truding on his guests. I know none of them, and some of 
their number might perhaps regard me as a vain upstart, 
should I presume to impose myself upon men of their posi- 
tion. Moreover, I have no fondness for wine, nor for delicate 
meats and dainties ; banquet dalliance wearies me, and the 
golden bloom of yonder flowers is to my sight a thousand 
times more attractive, than the ruddy glow of all the Faler- 
nian and Chian draughts that were ever poured into jewelled 
cups at the imperial table itself. My Art is my nectar and 
ambrosia. I desire no other.' 

"Luctus was silent for a little while. Then he recom* 
menced abruptly : 

" * No doubt, then, my friend, you are so addicted to this 
all-absorbing profession of yours, that nothing would ever 
allure you from its charms, or rive the enchantment it pos- 
sesses for you .^' 

"'Nothing,' answered Felix, fervently: 'nothing, except 
loss of sight.* 

" Again the dangerous-looking eyes of the man who stood 
behind him seemed to me to lighten grimly, and his hands 
clutched one another convulsively as though they would 
crush the life out of some noxious thing that lay in their 
grasp. But after that he spoke no more until he took his 

departure. 

♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ 



88 THE CROCUS. 

*' I was back again upon the pedestal in the court of my 
. owner s house, and it was the evening of the senator's great 
banquet. 

" Irene and her husband sat together in the atrium by the 
side of the hospitable hearth-fire of which the Roman poets 
sing ; for though the spring was advanced, the nights were 
often cold, and the air keen and piercing. While thus the 
painter and his wife conversed together in the dim glow of 
the flickering light, the flame of a lamp suspended outside 
the portico projected the shadow of a man's figure upon 
the drapery about the doorway. Felix took note of it and 
rose to admit the coming guest, but when he lifted the cur- 
tain, the face which met his own was unfamiliar, and a strange 
voice accosted him in imperfect Latin, against whose martial 
utterances the Grecian accent did tender trespass. 

*' ' Fair sir, I crave your pardon for this intrusion. But the 
night is bitter and stormy, and I scarce can stand against 
the violence of the wind. I have journeyed far, and am 
sorely tired, and the yellow light of the lamp above your 
door discovered to me a place where perhaps I may be suf- 
fered to rest awhile.' 

" * Whoever you are,* responded the painter, cordially, ' be 
sure you are welcome. Enter and be seated at the hearth 
of our sacred Lares. Methinks you are a Greek,^my wife 
Irene will be glad to meet a compatriot.' 
. "As he spoke, he admitted the stranger, who, having 
shaken the hail from his garments, advanced to the entrance 
of the hall, where for a moment he paused, and pronounced 
these words in a clear solemn voice : — 

" * Peace be to this house, and to all that dwell in it V 
' "Then he saluted Irene, and took the seat she placed 
for him. 

" He was an old man with a long flowing beard, and the 
aspect of his whole person was grave and subdued ; perhaps 
even a touch of austerity lurked in his deep grey eyes. His 
attire, like his speech, was Grecian, and though his years 
must have numbered almost seven decades, there was in his 
manner a strange youthfulness that seemed to have its source 
within him, as though the soul were renewing itself even 
while the outer frame decayed. 

. "*You are a traveller?' questioned Felix, as the slaves 
set bread and wine upon the table, 'and no doubt you 
come from our cherished and beautiful Greece? Are you 
perchance an Athenian ? ' 

" ' Not so, my kind host,' answered the pilgrim, * I come 
from Corinth, a messenger to certain sojourners in Rome, to 
whom I bear tidings and letters from distant friends. This 



' S. Luke X. 5. 



'». 



THE CROCUS. 89 

evening only have I reached the city after a long and tedious 
journey. And my name, if you care to know it, is Olympas. 
May I ask, in return, that of my hospitaWe entertainer ?' 

" • I am called Felix,' answered the painter, as he offered 
his visitor a goblet of tempered wine, * and thereto some add 
the surname of Sobrius. But my family is not noble, nor 
have I any relatives in Rome.' 

" * Brief as my time has yet been in this city,' returned the 
stranger, * it has yet sufficed me to learn something of you- 
Two men whom I overtook on my way, spoke as I passed 
them of Felix Sobrius the painter, and of some marvellous 
frescoes he had resently designed and executed. But I did 
not divine I should so soon be honoured with your actual 
acquaintance.' 

** * It is a strange incident,' replied Felix, ' but not inex- 
plicable. Such things belong to metaphysical phenomena, 
and make a part of the destiny which governs the affairs 
of men.' 

" The old man cast a wistful look upon him. 

"'Are you a philosopher, my son.^' he asked, gently. 

" ' I am a humble lover of wisdom,' responded Felix, with 
a smile, * although indeed I am not wise.' 

*' * Philosophy doubtless assists you in art,' pursued the 
pilgrrim, *and that is perhaps the secret of your success. 
You are not a man of pleasure, like these debased Romans 
who surround you on every side, — ^these lawless, disorderly 
crowds of patricians and freedmen, who have corrupted 
so horribly the doctrine of our Garden Teacher », — who 
put light for darkness, and darkness for light, and call their 
Latin debauchery, Athenian Epicureanism. The soul of 
your Grecian wife has saved you from that unhappy fate.' 

"The painter turned his loving eyes upon the face of 
Irene, and drew her hand tenderly to his lips. 

" * Rightly you divine, my wise guest,* he answered. * Here 
is my good genius. Whatever grace I have, she gave it me ; 
whatever good I possess, she taught me how to win it ; if 
in anything I be wiser or better than other men, it is she 
who has made me their superior.' 

" Irene laughed, and shook her golden head and blushed, 
but she hid the blush against her husband's cheek. 

"'There are,' said the old man, watching them, 'three 
things which endure, three things for which there is a place 
for ever : beauty, justice, and truth. If you know this in 
your soul, feel it in your heart, and understand it with 
your mind, my son, you are indeed an artist.' 

•' The painter's clear eyes kindled. 

« Epicurus. 



92 THE CROCUS. 

and certain extravagant cates and sweetmeats in demand at 
Rome were named 'Apician' in celebration of his renown 
as the most luxurious glutton of the great city. The mes- 
senger from Apicius brought a letter to Felix, and was 
besides charged to entreat him that he would not refuse 
to undertake the commission proposed in it, ' so warm and 
profound,' the slave had directions to say, ' was that esteem 
which Apicius entertained for the exalted talents of the dis- 
tinguished artist whom he addressed/ 

" But Felix was not entangled by this high talk. He 
opened the letter with a good deal of indifference, and having 
read through a preliminary page of fulsome adulation, dis- 
covered that the undertaking required of him was the deco- 
ration of a new triclinium ^ at the Apician villa. The gourmet 
wished to have painted on the principal wall of the apart- 
ment a large fresco representing a celestial banquet, the chief 
feature of the composition being tlie figure of Jove, as pre- 
siding deity and founder of the feast, arrayed in all the 
glorious pomp of divine majesty, and surrounded by a halo 
of mystical radiance, the centre of supreme homage and 
admiration ; which god -like figure was to be the portrait 
of no more spiritual a being than Apicius himself! The 
letter concluded with promises of liberal payment, and b^ged 
an immediate response. 

"A request so vain and puerile was not altogether un- 
paralleled in the days of Caligula and Nero. Felix read it 
to Irene as they stood together under the colonnade of their 
indoor garden. She smiled, with far more of gentle sadness 
in the expression of her face, than of scorn or indignation, 
but she did not question what her husband's reply would be. 
I knew there would indeed be no question about it. And 
I breathed my sweet savour of strength upon his brows as 
he stooped and kissed her, and turned away. Not for the 
sake of any gain or renown would the artist prostitute his 
genius or degrade the work he loved. In his ordered soul, 
the power of temperance had overcome both avarice and 
ambition. 

" * Say to Cslius Apicius,' said Felix, returning to the 
messenger, ' that I will write to him to-day. You need not 
wait, — 1 can carry the letter to his villa myself.' 

"The servant quitted the house. But just outside the 
door he appeared to encounter some one, and stopped. 
I heard voices, — the voice of Luctus, vehement with earnest 
interrogation, and the messenger of Apicius replying with 
equal volubility. 
. " * From Caelius Apicius ?' questioned the first voice ner- 

^ fianquet-hall. 



THE CROCUS. 93 

vously ; * Great gods ! are you sure ? Felix is to paint his 
triclinium ? * 

" ' I am certain/ answered the other confidently, ' I carried 
the letter, and as I amused myself by reading its contents 
on my way hither, there can be no mistake on the matter.' 

"'Nor any doubt what answer our painter will send/ 
added Luctus. 

** ' Indeed, I fancy not ! He dismissed me empty-handed, 
for he says he means to visit the Apician villa to-day. You 
see he is not willing to lose time over the affair.* 

" I almost believed I could hear Luctus gnash his teeth 
as he listened, but there was no further discourse. If he 
had come up to the house with the intention of visiting 
Felix, he evidently changed his mind, for his steps presently 
departed in another direction, and the gourmet's messenger 
went on his way chuckling audibly. He had made mischief, 
and that delighted him. Minds of such an order as his are 
always pleased when they have managed to set richer men 
by the ears. 

" Two hours after this, Felix having written [his letter of 
refusal to Apicius, went out to deliver it at the great man's 
villa. It was drawing towards evening, and the lamps of 
the city began to sparkle here and there through the gather- 
ing haze. But the haze grew into shadow, and the shadow 
deepened into night, and yet Felix did not return. Irene, 
anxious and disturbed, paced up and down the court alone, 
listening to every sound without, but waiting in vain for that 
sound which had tarried already so long. Suddenly she 
paused, and hurried across the atrium with a sharp cry of 
alarm. Some neighbours were bringing her husband home, 
— guiding him to his own door, leading him to the familiar 
threshold like a little child : for he could no longer see. 

" He was blind ; blinded by a strange and terrible accident 
that had left its mark like a scar upon his forehead, and had 
burnt the youth out of his features as though with fire, and 
had for ever quenched the joy of his life. All in one little 
moment! She took him to her heart, she held him there 
in her agony, as though, since he could not see her face, she 
wished that he might yet hear how her love for him beat 
strong and fast within her bosom. She rained her tears and 
kisses on his wounded brow like healing balm, and soothed 
him with tender words in low soft tones, calling him her 
blessing, — her darling, — her beloved. 

" So the pitying neighbours left them. 

" When they were alone, he told her how it had happened. 
As he came back from the villa of Apicius and re-entered 
the city, a casen>ent above him in one of the smaller streets 
suddenly opened, and a voice called him by name, 'Felix, 



94 THE CROCUS. 

Felix Sobrius !' He lifted his head and looked up. In that 
instant a hand, — he knew not whose, — flashed like a light 
from behind the lattice and flung into his face a burning 
liquid, that thrilled his nerves with intense pain and struck 
the light of day from his sight When he came to himself 
after the first shock of that awful anguish, the people had 
gathered about him, and were leading him home. None 
knew what had become of the person who had injured him. 
The casement was closed, and not a creature could be found 
within that fatal house. 

" Three days passed away. 

"On the fourth came Luctus, full of condolence and la- 
mentation. He had heard the terrible news from his friends. 
He was inexpressibly grieved. Was his dear friend really 
blind, — would he never recover his sight .^ What said the 
learned surgeon who had been consulted ? 

" Irene was hopeful. The surgeon believed that in time 
her husband would partially recover his vision. But the 
scars which the vitriol had left, the terrible seaming scars 
that were like marks of flame, would never be effaced. 

"Luctus was inconsolable. 'What a calamity!* cried he, 
wringing his hands. ' Just when he was appointed decorator 
at the Apician villa, — an undertaking which would certainly 
have made his fame for all time ! What a loss ! what a cruel 
disappointment !' 

"'Nay, my good Luctus,' quoth Irene, interrupting the 
torrent of his lamentation, * you are in error. Whoever in- 
formed you on that point, was clearly at fault It is true 
that Apicius desired Felix to perform the task you speak of, 
but Felix unconditionally declined it. He was on his way 
home, after delivering the letter which contained his refusal, 
when the disaster you deplore with so much kindly grief, 
befell him, and destroyed his sight' 

" Great gods ! Declined ! Refused !' 

" Luctus whitened to the temples, a hideous look rose into 
his eyes, his lips trembled like withered leaves, and his breath 
came sharp and quick between .them, like the breath of 
some fainting creature sore-pressed and hunted by insatiate 
pursuers. 

" ' What have I done .?' he muttered, as he fled from the 
house. But Irene did not hear those last words. 

" That very evening the old Grecian, Olympas, came again. 
He had learned the story of the accident, for all Rome was 
busy over the sad tidings, and curious about the details of so 
strange an adventure. He had come, said he, not to ask 
questions, but if he could, to console ; if that were not pos- 
sible, at least to offer his help and sympathy. 

" He found Felix reclining on a seat beside the pedestal 



THE CROCUS; 95 

Upon which the crocuses were placed, for the painter had 
asked to have his couch set there, that, if he might not see, 
he might at least be near the blossoms he loved and had 
cherished so long. 

" * Beautiful flowers,' said he, bending over them. ' I can- 
not behold you, but your sweet scent and soft touch tell me 
you are still here, and I know your colours are rich and 
bright as ever. Even so, though art is no more for me, and 
I can no longer guide the pencil nor limn the fair vermillion 
and gold, I know that beauty and virtue, which are the root 
and blossom of all pure and lovely art, are still real, and so 
indeed flourish evermore.' 

"Then as the old pilgrim stood before him, and looked 
into Irene's fair face, where she sat watching tenderly by her 
husband, the gentle voice with the Grecian accent broke 
softly on the ear of the blind man. 

" * I perceive, my son, that although God hath sent you 
pain. He hath still left you peace.' 

" * Peace and cheerfulness, wise Olympas,' replied the 
painter, smiling as he turned from his wife to the crocuses. 

* The gods are good. I am content.' 

" * Son,' resumed Olympas, regarding him with admiration, 

* I perceive also that thy temperance is real. It enables thee 
to meet adversity with a smile, and suffering with courage, 
neither is the joy of thine heart destroyed because thou hast 
ceased to be fortunate. Whence hast thou this wisdom y 

" * The philosophers and poets whom I loved in my success, 
are my resource now,' he answered 'Seneca tells us that 
" true joy is a serene and sober motion, the seat of it is 
within, and there is no cheerfulness like the resolution of 
a brave mind." And again, I call to remembrance the words 
of our Roman poet Horace, " The mind that is cheerful in 
its present state, will be averse to all solicitude as to the 
future, and will meet the bitter occurrences of life with 
a placid smile." ' 

** * Young man,' pursued Olympas, looking at him earnestly, 
' thou knowest so much, that it grieves me thy much should 
be so little. For of such as thou art is that great army which 
God hath sent forth to make war upon the world, heroes 
who carry in their hearts a brighter light of happiness than 
even thine, -on the badge of whose panoply is written 
for a token of their service, " Sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing*' 
For upon every wave that rises against them they behold 
through the shadows the approaching form of their dearest 
Lord, and they hear above the roar and din of the world's 
tempest, a voice that speaks to their heart continually, " Be 
of good cheer, it is /, be not afraid'' * 

" The blind painter could not see upon the face of his 



96 THE CROCUS. 

Visitor the light which was there, but he seemed, in the midst 
of his darkness, to feel its shining, and lifted his dimmed 
eyes towards it. 

"'Father,* said he, 'for you call me son, and the reverence 
I bear you is indeed filial, — ^will you teach me your philo- 
sophy ? Now that life is become to me a more sombre thing 
than it was when last I spoke with you, I would fain behold 
that divine glory of which you tell me. I would fain wear 
upon my brows the incorruptible crown that fadeth not away. 
Whence then is that Light, and whose is that crown ?* 

" * Dear son,* answered the aged Greek, * if thou wilt join 
the company of philosophers to which I belong, thou must 
forego the corruptible for the fadeless laurel. Thou canst 
not, in these days, obtain both. Our school of wisdom is 
a persecuted one, and if thou cast in thy lot with us, the 
times will change for thee. Men will shun, as hitherto they 
have sought thy friendship, the old familiar ways of art will 
become hard and bitter and thorny to thy tread, because for 
thee there will be no longer renown or reverence, nor sweet 
meed of human praise.' 

** ' The gods have been kind, father,* said Felix, touching 
his eyes significantly. ' All that, they have already removed 
from me.* 

"The Greek looked at him still with infinite compassion. 
*Thou hast then no hatred against thine unknown enemy?' 
he asked. 'Thou seekest no vengeance for the injury that 
has befallen thee ?' 

"'None,' replied the painter simply, 'My anger never 
endures.' 

" He spoke truly. It had been overcome by the rule of 
temperance. 

" Upon the grave face of Olympas, where youth and age 
mingled so harmoniously, I saw the strange light again, 
stronger and brighter than ever. 

"'And thy wife?' he asked presently. 'What says the 
angel of thy peace ?' 

"Irene knelt down before her husband, and laying his 
hands upon her heart with a gesture of unutterable love, 
turned her beautiful eyes towards the guest. 

"'My husband will lose nothing by his choice,' she an- 
swered. 'He has ruled his mind with temperance, and to 
him all paths are equal. He had no expectations of great- 
ness, no passion for the praise of men. His art was his 
praise, and his genius its own reward. What then can he 
lose or regret?' 

"How beautiful she was! How tender, how helpfully 
wise! More beautiful now than ever in this wifely office 
of sustainer and counsellor 1 



THE CROCUS. 97 

"'Listen then, my children/ resumed the old Greek, after 
a minute's pause. * For my philosophy is a Message/ 

" And straightway, beginning with the sign of the holy 
Cross, he poured forth to them the glad tidings of great joy. 

"As for Luctus I heard by-and-by that he had contrived 
to obtain from Apicius that coveted commission which had 
first been offered to Felix. For Luctus, like all intemperate 
men, was greedy and avaricious, and he longed with passion- 
ate desire for the rich reward that Apicius promised. 

"But it was never paid; for before the fresco was half 
completed, his patron, the would-be Divinity, had eaten his 
last banquet, and hanged himself ^. 

" It was on the eve of the day that was fixed for the bap- 
tism of Felix and Irene, that the wind, the messenger of God, 
came for me. 

"Without, the air was full of the new-torn summer, and 
the crocuses which had long been languishing, were parched 
at heart with the hot breath of the Italian May. Their heads 
sank upon their flexible stems, and the pure spirit that dwelt 
within them sought to free itself from the drooping petals 
which yet restrained its course, and to be exhaled into the 
clear and bodiless ether. 

" For my mission in the house of the painter was finished, 
and on the morrow he was to enter upon a higher and diviner 
way than I could teach, the Way of the Cross, the Life of the 
saints which is hid with Christ in God. 

"But before I passed out into the dim unknown heights, 
I floated through the silent atrium into the chamber beyond 
it, and hovered awhile above the couch whereon Felix and his 
wife lay sleeping. Side by side they lay, the woman's beau- 
tiful face serene in its wonderful loveliness, with its un- 
blemished features and smooth white brows, — and the face 
of the blind artist, — ^scarred and seared and branded ; but 
more kingly so, and more divine in its repose, than any other 
face I had seen upon earth. I think that man must have 
died a martyr." 

So the childlike voice of the golden-eyed spirit ceased. 

And as the sunny radiance around me faded and dis- 
solved into shadow, I awoke from my sleep, and found myself 
again in the little familiar conservatory among the spring-tide 

^ The inordinate expense of the culinary establishment of Apicius reduced his 
fortune and involved him in debt ; when, finding that, after clearing off his incum- 
brances, he should have left only a pittance utterly inadequate to keep such a body 
and soul together, he took poison, as some say, — according to others, hanged him- 
self, in pre&rence to pining after unattainable luxuries. Apicius is celebrated by 
Pliny, Juvenal, and MartiaL 

H 



98 THE CROCUF. 

flowers. But my slumber had lasted long, and the sun was 
already so far on his way westward that the hazy gloom of 
twih'ght began to darken the glass roof above me, the March 
wind was chanting its evensong amid the garden trees with- 
out, and at my feet, the yellow crocuses one by one were 
closing their bright petals and composing themselves to 
sleep. 



THE ROSE. 




*' Yes, Love indeed is light from Heaven, 
A spark of that immortal fire 
With angels shared, by Alia given, 
To lift from earth our low desire. 
Devotion wafts the mind above, 
But Heaven itself descends in Love ; 
A feeling from the Godhead caught 
To wean from self each sordid thought, 
A ray from Him who formed the whole, 
A glory circling round the Soul l** 

Byron. 

N a certain favoured comer of our garden is an arbour 
of red roses. There, on sunny days in June and July, 
I delight to sit, inhaling the fragrant air, and weaving 
the while the threads of those many-coloured thoughts which 
my vagrant imagination, whether conscious or dreaming, 
invariably formulates into stories. 

Last spring, a box of yellow crocuses in our conservatory 
furnished me with the text for a romance on the virtue of 
temperance. And now that summer is here in all the rich- 
ness of her multiform bloom and beauty, the very breeze 
seems redolent with tenderness ; and an intense sympathy 
towards every living thing inflames and fills my heart, incit- 
ing me to take them all in my embrace, and through love of 
them aspire to communion with God. 

I feel sure that these red roses, swaying to and fro in the 
soft wind, are able to teach me something which it would be 
good and pleasant to learn. This one, nodding and beckon- 
ing so daintily at me round the corner of the arbour, has cer- 
tainly a secret to impart ! Come, beautiful flower, to whom 
the wandering breeze reveals the mysteries of heaven, and 
repeats the stories which the angels tell one another, — what 
strange sweet things will you say to me this dreamy summer 
noontide ? 

" I will tell you," she whispers, touching my forehead softly, 
*'a story which my pilgrim friend the Wind has just recounted 
to me. He spent the night far up in the sky, among the 
flowers of the rainbow garden, and there in its highest 
circle he met the spirit of one of my fairest ancestors, the 
beautiful Rose of Kashmeer ! And he said that she, — more 
queenly and imperial than any other in the Paradise of the 

H 2 



ICX> THE ROSE. 

flowers, — ^bears evermore in her bosom the light of the crimson 
Sardius, type and interpreter of Divine Love, even as we in 
the world of men are the symbols of human passion and ten- 
derness. For Love is ruler in earth and heaven, and his royal 
seal is set on the brows of all the best and the greatest, dis- 
tinguishing the hero from the sensualist, the genius from the 
dullard, the noble man from the base and insensible. 

And this is the history which my lovely ancestor re- 
counted to our roving friend the Wind. 

" Centuries ago, one sunny season, as long since as the year 
1324, I first awoke to life, a tiny crimson rose-bud, among 
a bevy of my fair sisters, in the famous Valley of Kashmeer. 
My birthplace was an island, feathery with slender aspens, 
and rich with the luxuriant verdure of the warm Asian soil. 
Arbours of myrtle and climbing eglantine adorned the sloping 
shore, and all day under their cool shadows rippled the musi- 
cal waves of the Kashmeer lake. From the bower in which 
I blossomed X could discern a hundred similar islets, stud- 
ding like so many emeralds the golden expanse of glittering 
water. Here and there, as the peaceful hours went by, white 
sails flashed and dipped among the winding alleys of the lake, 
and the sweet strains of lute or viol came mingled with 
women's voices down the luminous tide ; now from some dis- 
tant haunt of sylvan revelry, now from the open casement of 
a Hindu bungalow, where joyful maids and matrons had met 
to celebrate the annual Feast of Roses. 

" Upon my particular island, the wildest and most solitary 
in the little archipelago, dwelt a young devotee of the Brah- 
min caste, that tribe of priests, whose members, like the 
Levites among the Jews, inherit the sacerdotal office, and to 
whom only appertains the guardianship of the national re- 
ligion. 

"These Brahmins observe three successive conditions of 
life, the highest of which is the Vanaprastha, or life of peni- 
tential seclusion. The priests who attain this saintly distinc- 
tion are called Rishis or anchorites ; they dwell in complete 
solitude, and are occupied solely in devout contemplation, 
prayer and the study of the Vedas, which are the sacred 
books of the Hindu faith. But before entering upon such 
holy retirement, it is commanded every Brahmin to pass 
a certain portion of his life in the domestic state of Grihastha, 
or matrimony. At an early age he must choose a wife of his 
own caste, and rear his sons and daughters in the faith ; and 
not until they have passed the age of childhood is he per- 
mitted admission into the nobler fraternity of monasticism. 

" The young priest who dwelt on my rose-island was then 
little more than a novice in the sacerdotal order. Every mori^- 



THE ROSE. 




THE ROSE. 1 01 

ing at sunrise time his betrothed wife came to visit him^^ in 
a tiny canoe, bright with gold and vermillion, bringing with 
her a cruse of some sweet drink, ripe fruits and meal-cakes; 
for the Brahmins are forbidden to eat the flesh of any crea- 
ture that has lived. Never was maiden more graceful in form 
or comelier of face than the beautiful Bhagwandaee, peerless 
even among the high-bred ladies of the Brahmin caste, to 
whom the palm of loveliness is always awarded from poetic 
Kashmeer to the southernmost shores of Hindustan. Scarcely 
more than a child in years, Bhagwandaee's dark oval face was 
serious with the tender shadow of earnest thought, and her 
brown jasper-clear eyes revealed within their radiant deeps 
the glory of a soul that loved and aspired. It was no idle 
inconsequent passion that united the hearts of the Brahmin 
neophyte and his betrothed, nor was it without meaning that 
the same name had been given to both of them, — a name 
which signifies in the parabolic tongue of the Hindus, * the 
servant of God' 

" Hour after hour Bhagwandas was wont to sit alone under 
the rose-bushes by the margin of the lake, buried in a pro- 
found meditation. And when at sunrise his fair companion 
came across the golden water to visit him, the lovers greeted 
each other, not with the light-hearted rapture of youth, but 
with the grave earnestness of fellow -students and philo- 
sophers, between whom exists the magnetic kinship of meta- 
physic and psychic sympathy, 

"*I might relate to you,' said the Rose of Kashmeer, 
' many a strange and startling speculation, many a daring 
theory which I and my sisters overheard in that fair solitude, 
as we waved our white and coloured blooms above the heads 
of these young aspirants after Truth. But I pass on rather 
to the events of a certain day, just as I was beginning to 
expand into rosy blossom, when there came to the islet, 
I know not whence, — a certain strange man, tall and stately 
of mien, and clad gorgeously, in a different garb from that 
worn by the Hindu people. Bhagwandas was reclining as 
usual by the sandy marge of the lake, absorbed in so deep 
a reverie that he would doubtless have remained unconscious 
of the stranger, had not the latter, confronting the recluse 
with stern visage and folded arms, thus addressed him in 
the Hindustanee tongue : 

" * Young man, art thou not Bhagwandas, votary of the 
false deity Brahma ?' 

*' Nowise disturbed, the other answered placidly : — 

• Until the time of the Mohammedan conquest mentioned in this story, Hindu 
women were permitted to associate freely with men of their own caste. 



102 THE ROSE. 

"*And if I be, who art thou that darest thus impugn 
a God, concerning whom thou knowest perchance nothing ?' 

" The tall man smiled. 

"'Mine is a purer creed than thine/ replied he, with an 
accent of disdain, ' and the God I adore admits no rivals on 
his throne, nor tolerates the impieties of idolaters. Know, 

misguided youth, server of dumb images, that Allah the 
Almighty alone is divine, and that the faith of Islam only 
is true and heaven-descended ! It is the will of Allah which 
has brought me hither to thee with this holy message on my 
lips, for I have heard in a dream that thou, Bhagwandas, art 
beloved of Heaven ! Arise, quit this idolatrous valley, em- 
brace the creed of our prophet, and a great destiny shall 
be thine ! I have need of such as thou art in the fulfilment 
of my mission in the world.' 

" Bhagwandas lifted himself upon his elbow, and looked 
stedfastly in the face of the Mohammedan. 

" ' I know thee,' he said, ' priest of a fierce and intolerant 
religion ! It is by dint of thy wily tongue and subtle heart 
that our barbarian conqueror, the mighty chieftain of the 
Tartar host, hath of late embraced the faith of Mohammed. 
By means of thy craft and cunning, he and the seven thou- 
sand infidels who serve him have smitten and overcome the 
people of Kashmeer. Once were they free, dwelling in their 
Own country, and serving their gods in peace. But thou and 
thy barbarians have brought our land into bondage, so that 
we keep our sacred festivals and sing our holy songs as 
strangers and aliens on its soil. And shall I, the servant 
of Brahma, forswear my solitude and my vows to make 
common cause with the oppressors of my race, and to gather 
with thee the paltry reward of worldly renown and greatness ? 
Thinkest thou that I am still so much a child as to be 
dazzled with the tricks and gauds of time ? Not so, false 
priest; I seek deliverance from the illusions of earth, and 
desire only to be united for ever in soul and substance with 
the vast spirit of Nature.* 

"*Thou art bold of speech, young man,* returned the 
Mohammedan, 'and the bold should not be apt to despise 
the rewards of daring and manly enterprise. What! can 
the mute expectancy of annihilation possess charms for a 
youth of such vigour and comeliness as that which I behold 
in thee ? Art thou not ashamed to waste thy best and 
noblest years in the contemplation of Divine Nonentity? 
Thy Nirvana is but the promise of Death. But as for me, 
my faith is full of life and enjoyment in the things of sense ; 

1 scheme, I work, I see the iruits of my labour ! Am I not 
the chief minister of your Tartar prince, second only in the 



THE ROSE. 103 

new empire of which he is head ? Rise, quit this unworthy 
ease, this studious repose, and enter with me upon a life 
more becoming the spirit of man **.' 

" The face of Bhagwandas was troubled, and he cast down 
his eyes. 

" ' Priest,' he answered, after an uneasy pause, ' thy message 
IS not for me. True, that oftentimes my flesh is at war with 
my soul, and I long to be mingling in the press and stir of 
the world But my God hath shewn me the emptiness of all 
things earthly, and well I know that the fair fruits with 
which you seek to tempt me are but apples of dust and 
bitterness. Nothing in Time can satisfy the spirit which 
yearns after Eternity.* 

** Thus they disputed until the sun dipped below the margin 
of the lake, and the rapid fall of the night warned the stranger 
to quit the rose-island. Bhagwandas remained alone, lying 
upon the soft turf, and watching the play of sparkling light 
with which the rising Eastern moon silvered the silent waters 
before him. 

" * Alas, Almighty !' he cried, lifting his hands heavenward, 
' to what end is man endowed with soul ? Must he for ever 
find the instincts of his nature and the necessities of his 
existence at war with the aspirations of the spirit which 
Thou hast breathed into his breast } Thou hast taught him 
to love gentleness and pity. Thou hast shewn him that the 
rule of benevolence is nobler than the dominion of physical 
force. Thou hast made him in his highest state to abhor 
carnage and bloodshed, and to subsist only on the fruit and 
the herbs of the earth, lest he pollute his soul with cruelty, 
and his body with unclean food. Idealizing the best he 
knows, he pictures Thee as a God delighting in mercy and 
love. Wherefore, then, dost Thou mock at his aspirations, 
and bar his upward progress with insuperable difficulty? 
Thou hast given him the heart of an angel, and hast clothed 
him with the skin of a beast ! Vainly he seeks to emanci- 
pate himself from the law of the brute, and to live a higher 
life than they. Vainly he denies himself the diet of blood 
and slaughter, since with every breath he draws, with every 
step he treads, he involuntarily outrages the sacredness of 
life ! How shall he believe Thee loving or pure, when the 
nature Thou hast produced is so full of foulness and of 
wrong ? He feasts his eyes on the crimson and gold of the 
sunset, he dwells with rapture on the translucent purple 
of the deep summer sky, he listens entranced to the musical 

*> In the year 1323 a. D., Kashmeer was invaded by 70,000 Tartars, whose 
commander established hhnself as sovereign of the coimtiy, and was soon ailer 
converted to Mohammedanism by a priest, who in return, was made his prime 
minister. 



I04 THE ROSE. 

voice of the cascade, or to the tender breath of the evening 
wind among the roses. He beholds the changeful glories of 
the lake, he inhales the fragrance of flowers, a taste of in- 
effable sweetness blesses every sense. For these things he 
adores, he praises, he loves Thee! But let him examine 
into the heart of all this outward beauty, and he will weep 
and wring his hands for pity and despair. For upon each of 
these fair islands, beneath the waves of this shining lake, and 
overhead in that calm supernal blue, innumerable deaths are 
being endured, innumerable pangs are being dealt, innumer- 
able tortures are being suffered. Yonder, in the scented 
brake, some hungry lynx mangles and devours a dove ; 
or a wild cat, yet crueller and more merciless, worries to 
death its innocent and terrified prey. Here also, in the 
gleaming waters, and in the air overhead, life is everywhere 
sustained upon death. Such, Almighty, is the course of Thy 
creation ; nor is man. Thy greatest and noblest work, exempt 
from the common curse of bloodguiltiness. Like the grave 
itself he lives upon death, and every day beholds happy and 
sinless creatures render up their spirits with suffering, in 
order that he may continue to exist. How then shall he 
rejoice in his humanity, knowing well that the higher he 
advances in love and perfection, the more odious and awful 
to his imprisoned spirit must seem the bondage of his body, 
and the keener must become his sufferings of sympathy with 
the suffering world around him ? Nay, let him purify his 
diet as he may, the very trappings and adornments of his 
person and his dwelling represent unnumbered agonies. On 
every side the fateful meshes environ him, he perceives the 
good, and must perforce do wrong ! O wretched, wretched 
Man ! who in earth or heaven shall deliver thee from the 
thrall of thy nature ! Sorely, indeed, am I tempted at times 
to abandon in despair the contemplation of these terrible 
mysteries, and to plunge myself unthinking in a career of 
selfish fleshly enjoyment and worldly ambition. Strive as 
I may, I can never be perfect, since my body compels me 
to live in pollution ; why, then, should I seek at all to spiri- 
tualize myself, when so doing I can but grow more restless 
and more sensitive ? Better far to be as the stranger whom 
I have seen to-day, to whose soul life is precious for its 
sensuous delights ! Ah miserable Bhag^andas 1 where shalt 
thou find counsel or consolation ?' 

"In musings and meditations such as these the young 
neophyte passed the greater part of the night With the 
first streak of the sunrise Bhagwandaee*s canoe came darting 
over the bright bosom of the lake, but this morning its fair 
mistress did not visit the rose-island of her betrothed alone. 
In the boat sat an old man of European race, wearing the 



THE ROSE. I OS 

habit of his people, and carrying in his right hand a long 
staff surmounted by a cross, upon which was carved in ebony 
the image of a man crowned with thorns and crucified. 
Struck with the reverend aspect of his unknown visitor, 
Bhagwandas quickly rose from his post of contemplation, 
and hastened to greet him. 'Thou art welcome, father,' 
he said, with grave courtesy; 'Heaven and my betrothed 
have doubtless brought thee hither to aid and comfort me, 
for I see the mark of wisdom, and the seal of peace upon 
thy brow.' 

" ' Son,' responded the other, ' the fame of thy piety and of 
thine austerities hath not escaped mine ears. And, having 
somewhat to say to thee, I besought this maiden, thy be- 
trothed, to carry me with her to the place of thy retirement, 
that we might converse together. If, then, as thy words 
imply, thou standest in need of mortal help and comfort, 
open thine heart to me, and let Heaven speak if it will by 
these unworthy lips. But what, in this abode of loveliness 
and repose, can occur to trouble or distract thee.? Dost 
thou not dwell here by choice, apart from thy kind, com- 
muning only with Divinity }* 

" ' Father,* replied Bhagwandas with a sigh, * thou knowest 
the rule of life prescribed by the laws of Manu for the ob- 
servance of the zealous Brahmin. " He is not to wish for life 
nor for death, but to expect his appointed time, as a hired ser- 
vant expects his wages. He must subdue all passions and de- 
sires, and detach his affections from all worldly affairs'^ To 
this calm and holy disposition I seek to bring myself, in 
obedience to the dictates of our religion, that if possible 
I may attain to the merit of saintship and escape the penal- 
ties and defilement of future transmigration, by uniting myself 
immediately after death with the pure spirit of the Deity. 
Thus hath my Guru® instructed me, and desiring to obey 
him to the utmost, I have come hither to dwell in this 
seclusion, that I may the better reflect upon the vileness 
and worthlessness of earthly things.' 

" The old man turned his glance upon Bhagwandaee. 

"'But, my son,' said he, looking from the beautiful girl 
to the neophyte, *is not this thy betrothed.? Thou lovest^ 
— how, then, canst thou profess renunciation of all affection 
and desire that is not of Heaven ?' 

"*It is true,' replied Bhagwandas with visible confusion, 
' that this maiden is my plighted wife. But I seek to make 
the love I bear her such as my Guru may approve. Day after 

'^ At an early age the Brahmin youth is placed under the guidance and in- 
struction of a man of his own caste, called a Guru, whose commands he is 
bound to obey, and who occupies the position of his spiritual parent and 
confessor. 



I05 THE ROSE. 

day I wrestle with my lower self, striving to subdue the 
promptings of youthful affection, and to bring my soul out 
of the bondage it suffers by nature. By-and-by, I trust 
I shall so have weaned myself from the rule of earthly love 
as to regard all things with equal indifference, and should 
Heaven so ordain,— even to behold Bhagwandaee die with- 
out feeling a pang of regret for the loss of her.' But as he 
spoke he did not venture to look in the face of his be- 
trothed, and I thought that his words seemed to cause her 
great distress. 

'* * Alas, poor boy,* said the stranger mournfully, ' these pro- 
fessions of thine recall to me the belief and the struggles of 
my own long-vanished youth. Fifty-five years ago I forsook 
my home, my friends, and my country, and solemnly de- 
voting myself for ever to the life of poverty and virginity, 
I took arms as a Knight Templar in the last Crusade, 
which the princes Louis and Edward led against the Sara- 
cens. To thine ears, my son, these names convey no mean- 
ing, for thou and thy people dwell remote from all that 
concerns the objects and the interests of the Christian na- 
tions. For thee it must suffice to know that thus early in 
my career I vowed to renounce the secular life of wedlock, 
and to tread the path of manhood and of age alone and 
unbeloved of woman. Fervent in the resolution thus adopted, 
I landed on the shores of Palestine, and bore my part with 
enthusiasm in the enterprises of the Holy War, It was my 
fate to fall into the hands of the infidels. Many and sad 
were the years of my captivity, but at length I burst my 
chains and escaped into Arabia. There, while seeking the 
means of return to my own land, I was treacherously 
betrayed into a second bondage, and carried farther east- 
ward by a wandering tribe of Bedouins. Then followed 
a time of bitter servitude, long and inexpressibly galling 
to my ambitious spirit, but fraught with precious lessons, 
which since I have learned to understand and to value. 
Thus the flower of my life was passed, and when the Arab 
chief who owned me died, I found myself restored to freedom 
at an age when freedom could no longer bring me adventure 
or renown. What few years might remain to me under the 
sun I resolved to devote to the preaching of my faith. 
With this intent I journeyed from city to city, but my in- 
firmities and my sorrowful condition, though saving me often 
from persecution, gained me but scanty hearing. Coming 
at length to Kashmeer, the report of thy youthful sanctity 
reached me, and I sought my way to thy presence, believing 
that to one so earnest and so thoughtful the blessed message 
of divine truth could not be declared in vain.' 

" * Old man,' replied the Brahmin, * one whom I know not 



THE ROSE. 107 

has already been hither to me with a like announcement 
He came to unfold to me the creed of his prophet Moham- 
med. And he spoke to me of manly ambition, and of the 
rewards of worldly glory and power as the only objects 
worthy humanity. But I told him that such vain desires 
must fail to content a soul profoundly sensible of the sadness 
and bitterness of earth, nor could all the gold and pomp of 
Islam avail to dazzle senses which perceive only the supreme 
horror and misery of existence. How should I, in whose 
ears the vast cry of Nature's travail is ever sounding, be 
b^uiled by the pitiful sophistry of a solitary worldling? 
My soul is torn with the harrowing mysteries of creation, 
— ^vainly I seek to harmonize the actual with the ideal, and 
to reconcile the conditions of life with the law of love I If, 
then, thy message be worth anything to my bewildered 
mind, it is able to provide me with at least some clue to 
the solution of the enigma that torments me T 

" * Son,' replied the aged Templar, * behold this figure 
carved here upon my staff. It is the image of the Chris- 
tian's Godl Not without awful significance is the Crucifix 
presented to the world as the universal symbol of religion ! 
Pierced heart, wounded hands and feet, stricken brow, 
parched lips, agonized nerves and sinews, scourged and 
lacerated flesh, outraged modesty, hard unrestful bier of 
a lingering death, — all these are the everlasting type of the 
religious life on earth. No other form of martyrdom would 
exemplify it as completely, nor could rack, or block, or 
stake, or pillory present in so striking and acute a manner 
that distinctive penance of every member, — that wearying 
shameful exposure in the eyes of all the world, — that patient 
endurance of which the Cross is our eternal badge and sign. 
Strange inscrutable dispensation, vast allegory of Nature's 
duality, mysterious figure of a yet greater and profounder 
mystery, — the relation of the material to the spiritual, — of 
the Soul to the Flesh. Everywhere this duality confronts 
and confounds us! Always the body smitten that the 
spirit may aspire; always the contempt of the individual 
life and the cry of travail and death that new births may 
continue the eternal order of things undying; always the 
law of Nature at war with the intuition of the soul ! Yet 
it is written in our holy books as it is in the Vedas which 
thou believest, that God is Love! He who insisted most 
upon that truth had stood nevertheless beneath the Cross on 
Calvary, and had witnessed there the supremest agony of 
the world ! He who most insisted on the doctrine of God's 
eternal love had seen the martyrdom of the Innocent, had 
taken into his home the very Mother of Sorrows, and had 
become her adopted son ! But when thou knowest God 



108 THE ROSE. 

as the beloved disciple knew Him, when thine head has 
lain upon that bosom whereon his was wont to rest, thou 
too, my son, shalt understand the mystery of Love made 
manifest in suffering!' 

" Bhagwandas made a gesture of impatience. ' Father/ said 
he, ' all this which thou sayest does but confirm me in my 
despondency. Already I know the evil, and admit the 
mystery ; thy crucifix justly symbolises both. But shew 
me the remedy, — tell me what I, in my own person, can do 
to re-adjust the world !' 

** As he spoke he extended his hands in nervous eagerness, 
and his strained and anxious face bore testimony to the 
deep emotion which moved him. But the Christian an- 
swered in slow and solemn tones : — 

"*Son, be more humble. Humility is the mother of the 
Virtues. It is not for thee nor for any man to re-create 
the heavens and the earth! Be comforted to know that 
the burdens of life are at least equally laid upon all flesh, 
and that if the beasts suffer in their blindness to satisfy 
human needs, man in his turn suffers at least no less with 
open eyes, foreknowing and foreseeing his perils and his 
trials from day to day. And as for thy part, my son, think 
of thyself as an atom in the whole which God has evolved, 
— as one of His many thoughts, — and fulfil to the fullest thy 
destiny. Do the work which lies nearest to thee, tread thy 
course in the midst of a halo of love. Much thou mayest 
heal, — much thou mayest mitigate; perchance for such 
ends wcrt thou even born. But beware of becoming in- 
different, — lose not thine hold upon love. It is better for 
thee to suffer for love's sake, than to obtain peace by means 
of a ha/d heart.' 

" ' Would indeed,* cried Bhagwandas, * that I could accept 
thy doctrine ! But what use can I make of a tender heart, 
since I am myself the cause of daily death to scores of 
innocent beings?' 

"* Is death then so great an evil?' pursued the Templar. 
*What,^-does not even thine own religion teach thee that 
Siva the Destroyer is equally divine with Bramah the Creator 
and Vishnu the Preserver, in the trinity of the Vedas ? Death 
in its bare simplicity is no calamity, it is the knowledge of 
its approach that is horrible, and the sense of that which will 
be lost by means of it. For those creatures, then, to whom 
such knowledge and such sense is impossible, only the mere 
stroke of death remains, and this it is thy duty and the duty 
of all men to render as brief and as painless as can be. 
Thank God that it is in thy power to mitigate the real evil 
of the world, — the suffering of the living ! Teach the race 
of men to regard with tenderness the creatures which toil 



THE ROSE 







"Ebt taiui to wan* lunairK lulud-'— (n/>«r- 



THE ROSE. 109 

for their benefit, the living beasts of burden ; and if thou 
wilt, forbear thyself from slaughter. Be as perfect as thou 
art able to be, — God will ask no more at thine hands.' 

"*Thou thinkest then, father,' said the young Brahmin, 
'inasmuch as life everywhere admits of suffering, and the 
conditions of man's existence preclude him from attaining 
the highest ideal of perfection, that God is not to be found 
in Nature?' 

"*What,' returned the pilgrim, 'do we understand by 
*God?* Our highest — our noblest — our best imaginable. 
In all that Nature shews of innocence, beauty and tender- 
ness, we recognise God. In all that humanity has of good 
and great we see him equally. God, then, is found for us in 
the best of Nature and of Man. So far as we know, man 
only has the intuition thus to formulate the idea of God. 
Having that power, he is bound by the very fact of his 
intuition to aspire after the best he perceives. And he can 
only aspire by means of Love, — Love which is symbolised 
by the Crucifix, — Love which is ever perfected by suffering.' 

''Silence followed these last words, which the Templar 
accompanied with a sigh, and in the pause Bhag^andaee rose 
from her seat on the turf, and extending her hand to the 
branch upon which I blossomed amidst a cluster of my sister 
roses, she broke it from the tree, and began to weave herself 
a garland. The old man looked at her inquiringly as he 
marked her busy fingers; and she told him, smiling, that 
a great religious festival was to be held in a neighbouring 
temple at sunset, and that she and her betrothed must both 
be present to take part in the worship. 'And,* added the 
beautiful Hindu, ' since we are now commemorating our Feast 
of Roses, all the women will wear chaplets such as this which 
I am making, in honour of the god, to whom the flowers 
of holy Kashmeer^ are more precious than any other blos- 
soms of the earth.' 

"'And who,' asked the Christian Knight, 'is the deity 
whose praises you are thus about to celebrate ?' 

"*It is Kama Deva, god of love,' replied Bhagwandaee, 
hiding her face in her veil. 

♦ ♦♦♦*** 

"The hour of sunset, the third sandhya* of the pious 
Brahmin, had arrived, and crowds of devout adorers thronged 
the temple of Kama Deva. 

" Vast aisles and labyrinths of variegated marble, colon- 

* All Kashmeer is accoanted holy land, and miraculoas fountains abound in 
all parts of it Many of its sacred monuments have to this day escaped the 
iconoclastic zeal of the Moslems. 

• The Hindus observe three sandhyas, or hours of prayer, the first at sunrise, 
the second at noon, and the third at sunset. 



no THE ROSE. 

nades of agate and porphyry, vaulted roofs ablaze with circles 
of coloured light, — all of splendour and of mysticism that could 
enchain the senses and fascinate the imagination was lavishly 
displayed within this pagan house of prayer. On every 
side the walls were covered with enormous frescoes of gro- 
tesque and monstrous figures, scented volumes of sandal- 
wood and incense smoke rolled upward and broke against 
the lofty dome ; and at the farthest end of the temple, where 
the clusters of lamps were thickest, festoons of embroidered 
tapestry, heavy with gold and gems, concealed the shrine 
of the Deity. 

" Bhagwandaee, wearing the rose- garland upon her black 
shining tresses, stood among a group of dark-eyed maids and 
matrons similarly crowned. Near them I saw her betrothed 
and his Guru, — a man of stem and forbidding aspect. The 
neophyte's face was troubled, and he seemed absorbed in 
meditation which precluded him from joining in the general 
fervour ; he stood erect and motionless, his eyes fixed upon 
the pavement, and his arms crossed over his breast Little 
meaning could the rites of Kama possess for one whose 
course of life from day to day was a constant warfare with 
love, whose loftiest ambition was to merit the honours of 
the ascetic and recluse. Presently a low murmur of wild, 
rich music and a chorus of human voices stole from the 
sanctuary of the temple ; the congregation fell with one con-^ 
sent upon their faces ; the sound swelled and rose into a 
mighty rush of voluptuous harmony, and the huge folds of 
tapestry before the altar parted asunder in rolling waves, 
disclosing within the sacred adytum the mystic image of 
Kama Deva. Rubies, sapphires and emeralds of the rarest 
magnificence flashed from the brow and arms of the colossal 
idol Its body shone with burnished metals, and in its 
five hands were strings of golden bees, and shafts of honey- 
coloured amber, tipped with roses. Wheels of scintillating 
flame encompassed the shrine, and kindled into unearthly 
brilliancy the myriad jewels which adorned the figure of 
the god, A great shout of exultation filled the echoing 
vistas of the temple, and mingled with the pealing chords 
of melody around the precincts of the altar, the voice of 
a mighty multitude celebrating the Divinity of Love ! 

'* Slowly the sound, died again into the music, and as the 
worshippers rose to their feet Bhagwandas was conscious of 
a new presence beside him, and the touch of a hand on his 
shoulder. 

" Turning in surprise, he encountered the grave face of the 
Christian pilgrim, and perceived that he still bore with him 
the symbol of his philosophic faith. Startled and bewildered 
at so unexpected an intrusion, the young Brahmin scarcely 



THE ROSE. Ill 

suppressed a cry, but the other bending towards him, whis- 
pered earnestly ; * Come out, — come hence with me while yet 
there is time ; danger menaces these heathen revellers, but 
thou and thy beloved may yet be saved.' With these words 
he seized the unresisting youth, and drew him forth from 
the crowd, unobserved amid the general excitement of the 
moment At the doorway of the temple Bhagwandas paused, 
and the name of his betrothed rose to his lips. She was 
already beside him, — ^the eyes of love are quick and watchful. 
Noiselessly the Hindu youth and maiden followed their 
guide into the outer court of the temple, and into the shade 
of a myrtle grove beyond. There they paused, and Bhag- 
wandas was the first to speak. 

** * Wherefore, father,' said he, ' hast thou faced the anger 
of my people thus, and exposed thyself to the peril of death } 
If my Guru should chance to have seen thine hand on 
mine, he will deem the laws of my caste transgressed, and 
all the repute of my devotion will not suffice to save me 
from the penalty of pilgrimage.' 

" ' Son,' replied the Christian, ' I have heard that to-night 
the Moslems intend to surprise the worshippers in your 
temple, and to pillage its shrine ! Unarmed and unprepared, 
a company of revellers will have small chance against the 
forces of the Tartar invaders! Your Feast of Roses may 
speedily become an orgie of blood ! Blame me not that 
I have endangered thy reputation or risked my own safety 
to save thee and thine affianced bride from impending doom. 
A brief time hence, and that reputation will avail thee 
nothing, for Kashmeer is in the hands of a nation by which 
your distinctions of caste are accounted childish folly. But 
thy life — ^with that thou mayest yet do great things ! I could 
not endure the thought that a soul like thine should perish 
within the walls of a heathen temple. Forsake this corrupt 
religion, whose conceptions of God are as fantastic and de- 
formed as its idols, and depart with me to the shores of the 
West. Thy spirit is too noble and clear-sighted to be bound 
with the cramp-irons of a system which, by forbidding man 
to foster love for human things, debars him from aspiration 
towards the Divine ! I, too, in my youth committed a mis- 
take yet more fatal than thine, and by an oath which I have 
not dared to break, severed myself from all the dearest 
relationships of our race. Be warned by me, — come forth 
from the gloomy solitude of feverish thoughts which prey 
upon thine heart, and enter instead into the healthy action 
of a loving human life. There do thine utmost, — neither God 
nor man will hold thee responsible for the laws of Nature ! 
Love's royal way reaches from earth to heaven ; it is surely 
long enough and broad enough for thee ! ' 



112 THE ROSE. 

** While yet the Templar spoke, a loud discordant shout 
rang through the evening calm across the beautiful valley ; 
there followed a sudden tumult of hurrying feet and a noisy 
clash of arms ; cries of dismay and entreaty burst out amid the 
confusion, and the fugitives in the myrtle grove looking forth 
from their place of concealment beheld the temple of Kama 
already surrounded and attacked by the Tartar legions. 
Then from the heart of the struggling host issued bands of 
terrified women with torn garments and dishevelled hair, 
wailing and beating their bosoms as they fled from the 
scene of their fateful gala. 

" * O Almighty !' cried Bhagwandas, struck with indignation 
and sorrow, * how hard are the deeds of the world !* 

'^His exclamation reached the ears of a Mohammedan 
priest, the director of the assault, who had reined up his horse 
close by the myrtle thicket. *Ah, wretch!' retorted he, 
*I know that craven voice! Thou art the idolater Bhag- 
wandas, who yesterday refusedst my patronage I Thou art 
the coward who didst prefer a puerile seclusion to the ambi- 
tion of a worthy manhood ! Take the death thy meanness 
deserves, the death of a useless, whining cur!' And raising 
himself in his saddle, the Moslem drew his bow-string to his 
shoulder and launched an arrow at the breast of the Hindu 
youth. Then, not pausing to see the result of his aim, he 
struck spurs to his charger and galloped away into the thick of 
the medley. But the doom he had threatened fell upon one 
whom he knew not With the noble impulsiveness of a 
generous nature the Christian Knight flung himself as a shield 
before the intended victim, and intercepted with his own 
body the winged death-bolt of the Mussulman. Bhagwandas 
and his betrothed uttered a cry of horror. Eagerly they 
tore the barb from the wound of the fallen man, and sought 
to staunch the blood which bathed his side. Vain was their 
tender care, — the sounds and sights of earth were already 
passing away from the dulled senses of the martyr. A few 
broken words escaped him, but they were uttered in a lan- 
guage unintelligible to the anxious ears of the listeners. 

" He speaks in his own tongue,* whispered the Hindu 
maid, ' I know not what he says, but the look on his face is 
a look of peace.' 

''Bhagwandas knelt, and gently touched the hand which 
clasped the ebony, crucifix. The pulse no longer beat, the 
tide of life was quelled in the old man's veins for ever. 

'''He is dead,' said the Brahmin, in hushed and solemn 
tones, — ' the Almighty has recalled the soul he has purified. 
It is the enigma of Love made perfect in Suffering !' 

" Bhagwandaee answered nothing, but the tears flowed fast 
from her soft dark eyes. With a tender and reverent gesture 



THE ROSE. 113 

she also fell on her knees, took the rose garland from her 
hair and laid it on the breast of the nameless stranger who 
had given his life to preserve her beloved. Then she rose 
and put her hand in that of the youth beside her. 

" * Let us depart/ she said, * the Moslems approach our 
hiding-place ; we can do no more for the dead who has 
saved us.' 

"Bhagwandas lifted the pilgrim's staff from the motion- 
less hand which had borne it so faithfully through the world. 
* Henceforth/ he said, putting the cross to his lips, * this 
symbol of the Christian's faith and knowledge shall also be 
mine own. Let Love be Lord of all ; the mystery of life 
and suffering are God's.' 

*' Then, carrying the staff, he turned to his betrothed, and 
hand-in-hand they passed down the myrtle-grove together. 

" And I, the Rose of Kashmeer, withered upon the breast 
of the unknown dead ! " 



THE WATER-REEDS. 




"There are in this loud stunning tide 
Of human care and crime. 
With whom the melodies abide 

Of th' everlasting chime ; 
Who carry music in their heart 
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart. 
Plying their daily task with busier feet, 
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat.*' 

Christian Year, 

HAVE always from childhood entertained a great 
fancy for finding parables in Nature. It has ever been 
my special delight to frame for myself stories and alle- 
gories out of the voiceless things around me, and to discover 
in the silent insensate life of flower, stream, or sea, lively 
images of the mysteries of God's spiritual kingdom. In such 
a mood have I sought to pourtray, however faintly, the gentle 
life of temperance and of love severally typified by the Crocus 
and the Rose. For in the beautiful garden of the Rainbow, 
(of which we mortals catch a glimpse now and then, when 
the angels open the bright gates of heaven to let out the 
sunshine after a storm,) — in that fair Paradise of flowers, 
all the hues of our earthly blossoms bear part, and we see 
wheel within wheel of shining colours, wondrously blent into 
one another, and brighter far than any in meadow or garden 
below. And who, looking upward from the fair-faced flowers 
of earth to the more glorious dyes of the rainbow, can help 
reflecting on the allegory thus presented of the gentle and of 
the divine life ? Here, in hidden and in high places alike, the 
saints of God display to Him their fair lives, and give out 
their sweet fragrance of good deeds ; in heaven, eternally 
united, they encircle the throne of the Most Holy, fairer and 
brighter than when on earth, yet each differing from other as 
the stars in glory; every saint crowned through his own 
special grace, this one through patience, that through ardent 
love, another through faith or Christian valour. And in 
this heavenly garden my golden crocus has its place with 
the rest, side by side with the clear stedfast green of the 
fourth circle, — the green that speaks of refreshment and of 
strength, the hope of faithful souls. Come, then, with me 
to the brook which winds round the base of yonder bush- 
grown hill; there on the gnarled trunk of a fallen oak, 

I 2 



Il6 THE WATER-REEDS. 

sheltered from the somewhat too rough zephyrs of early 
autumn, which indeed are apt at times to be rude play- 
fellows, we will sit together and interpret the parable of the 
tall green water-reeds at our feet 

Yes, of the Water-reeds! Be sure that these slender 
graceful fairy-wands, favourites alike of the old mythologists 
and of the modern poets, have a story to tell and a moral to 
point us at least as worthy our interest as those we have 
heard already ! 

Here, as I lean back at my ease against this mossy elm, 
and watch the quivering reeds and the great bull-rushes 
tossing their heads in the wind, I picture to myself the 
ghostly shape of their representative Genius. I see the Spirit 
of the Water-rushes, floating above the shadowy stream like 
a ray of sunlight, and her aerial garments, as they curl to and 
fro with the breeze, seem r3^hmical in their motion as though 
swayed by the pulse of some celestial music which mortals 
cannot hear. In her bosom she carries the bright flame 
of a divine lamp, whose clear shining illumines her stedfast 
eyes, so that they bear in their depths an expression of 
singular strength and rapture, as if the holy fire had con- 
centrated within them all its power and vitality. And in the 
face of the fair spectre, I see the waiting, abstracted IcJok 
which painters give to the countenance of S. Cecilia, the 
listening look of one who catches afar off the holy melodies 
of heaven. 

Then, while yet I gaze upon her with wonder, a voice like 
the plaintive long-drawn sigh of the wind among the rushes 
of the stream issues from the phantom's nebulous lips. Pre- 
sently it swells into a strong murmuring sound, such as one 
hears upon the rivers at sunset, when tihe evening gales are 
shaking the tall reeds of the shallows, and methinks I see 
the cloudy veil upon the head of the Spirit, lifted as though 
by an airy breath. Beneath its folds I perceive a wreath of 
pliant water-grasses, drooping their green spear- like blades 
over her neck, and about the long uncurled hair that seems 
to hang round her as though dank and heavy with moisture. 

" I am," says the beautiful eidolon, " the Genius of the 
green water-reeds, under the figure of which the seers of old 
and new times have discovered a true emblem of Music. 
But the music of the soul upon earth, which to mortal sense 
is inaudible, is the spiritual harmony of Patience, whereof 
also the life of the water-reeds is a continual type. For as 
the storms that sweep across them, and the rains that beat 
upon their stedfast heads, serve but to elicit from them sweet 
cadences, and can neither tear them from their place, nor 
lay bare their roots which are covered by the impregnable 
waters, so is it with the soul that abides in patience. There 



THE WATER-REEDS. 11/ 

is no tempest of adversity, no rain of tribulation that shall 
be able to overcome the patient man ; the fiercer the assaults 
of the world, the sweeter and the louder is the melody within 
his heart And because the principle of that divine music 
is Patience, the strong sustaining grace whereby all the 
virtues are established and fortified, the reeds also, which 
even in angry weather emit unceasingly an excellent har- 
mony, are a symbol of the soul's continual music, pervading 
the life of those who love God, and who being rooted and 
grounded securely in His love, are safe evermore from the 
jars of this world's confusion and discord. Wherefore it is 
written, that * through patience the saints shall possess their 
souls.' And the lamp of God, whose fire I bear beneath my 
vestment, is the holy spirit of Fortitude, whereof the glory 
is like that of the emerald surrounding the heavenly throne. 
And forasmuch as the flowers of earth are always enshrined 
in leaves of green, let that be a token to you that every 
Christian grace must in like manner be strengthened and 
set about with Patience, since by means of patience only 
can any virtue endure and be preserved. It suffices not to 
strike now and then some stray note, there must be a se- 
quence and continuation of sweet sounds to form a melody, 
nor must those who would make music in their hearts to the 
Lord be fain to weary in well-doing. But let not such be 
fearful or dismayed, for the last chord of their symphony 
shall be sounded in the full light of the Perfect Day, when 
there shall no more be any need of patience, but instead 
thereof a new song shall be sung in the temple of the Lord, 
and they who have waited for Him shall receive their heart's 
desire. 

"Listen, daughter of earth, while I recount to you my 
hbtory, and learn from it what patience and fortitude were 
once able to accomplish even for men of ruder creeds and 
rougher times than yours. Nor marvel, while I speak, that 
my story tells of days so far remote. I am of ancient birth 
and noble lineage ; my ancestors, indeed, were the reeds of 
whose green hollow stems the river -god first made the 
musical Syrinx, and the earliest remembrances of my life 
are all inwrought with classical and l^endary ages. Still 
you may see me carved in stone or chiselled in marble upon 
the facade of old-world temples, wrapping the sacred feet 
of a nymph or adorning the brows of an ancient river-god. 
Wild and terrible times they were, — those bygone days of 
poetic daemon-worship ; but there were noble lives lived, and 
fair examples set even then which many a Christian of to- 
day might worthily take for pattern. And if you care to 
know the story of such a life, though indeed a brief one, hear 
what the Spirit of the Water-reeds can tell. 



Il8 THE WATER.REEDS. 

"Two thousand three hundred years ago, according to 
the measurement by which you mortals mete out eternity, 
I chanted my windy music about the shady margins of the 
river Permessus in Boeotia. That was a time of disaster and 
dread to all the broad land of Greece, for Xerxes, the Persian, 
had come into the country with an army which could scarce 
be counted for its vast multitude, and on all sides the peasants 
and the men-at-arms alike trembled at the bare thought 
of encountering the moving hosts of this terrible invader. 
There was a council held in the Isthmus of Corinth, and 
every Athenian and Spartan state sent deputies to assist at 
its deliberations ; but the hearts of the sturdiest patriots 
misgave them in the midst of their courage, when they heard 
from certain of their countrymen who had been sent to 
watch at Sardis while Xerxes mustered his warriors there, 
how huge a host it was that the son of Darius was leading 
against the free homes and holy shrines of Greece. 

** Close by a wind of the river Permessus, just where the 
waters met in a broad shallow pool, and where my g^een 
bristling spears were thickest and my music loudest, stood 
the homestead of a Thespian farmer named Stratiotes. His 
wife was a Spartan woman of a sweet countenance^ and 
they had one child, some fifteen years old, crisp-haired and 
sinewy-limbed, a boy with the heart of a hero and the face 
of a god. 

** Now when the war between the Persians and the Greeks 
began to be imminent, and the Isthmian council met to 
decide for the plans of defence, all the men of Thespia 
made an agreement among themselves to help in the army 
that was to be led against the enemy, for some of the people 
in the northern provinces, overcome with dread because of 
the vast multitude of the Persian ranks, were already 
shewing signs of a desire to submit tamely to the fate 
which they deemed inevitable, and were afraid to take up 
arms against the eastern power. But the Thespians were 
true men, and every one of them who was free to bear a 
weapon in defence of his country went eagerly to enrol 
himself in the guard which the council was about to send 
into Thessalia, to keep the passes there against the ad- 
vancing foe. For otherwise they feared to be taken for 
traitors or cowards like their northern comrades, and they 
thirsted to prove their integrity in the eyes of all Greece. 

" Then when the farmer Stratiotes heard that the men of 
Thespia were enlisting themselves to serve in the war against 
the Persian king, the fire of his great race kindled in his 
veins, and he longed to be out and away upon the march 
also, with the armies of his country, to shake his spear in 
the faces of the strangers, and to fight to the death for 



THE WATER-REEDS. 











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THE WATER-REEDS. I19 

the holy fanes of Father Zeiis and Hera the immortal Queen 
of heaven. 

" * It is to no noble end/ said he to his wife, ' that I remain 
here like a shepherd's dog, minding my flocks or watching 
the boiling of the meal-pot, while the citizens gird on their 
armour and go out to battle like brave men. They shame 
me, and I cannot endure to live with the stain of a blush 
upon my forehead. What matter whether the kine fatten, or 
the fields yield well, or the barns be filled, when the ground 
upon which we tread trembles beneath the thunder of six 
million hostile feet, and the air we breathe is heavy with 
the sound of many tongues speaking a strange language? 
Let me be away, wife, where it becomes a Thespian to be, 
fighting for thee and for the land of Greece, by the side of 
Thespian men.' 

" And Metis the wife made answer, raising her wise brave 
eyes to his, — 

"*I am a Spartan woman, — shall I bid thee refrain from 
battle? Go, my husband, and the gods of Greece go with 
thee!' 

" And I heard the words, for Stratiotes and his wife stood 
in the door of their house as they conferred together, and 
the wind came up out of the river to me, and I clapped my 
many -fingered hands and sang a paeon of strengthening 
assurance and patient hope. 

" So the farmer called his son and said to him, 

" * Child, I am going to join the forces of Boeotia. Watch 
over the farm until I return, have a care of thy mother, and 
in my stead be master of my servants and of my cattle.* 

"Then the boy lifted his face to his father's, and I saw 
that the fierce blood of Theseus the slayer of the Minotaur, 
and of the divine son of Danae was aglow in his fervent eyes. 

"* Father r he cried, 'let me also go with thee I Let me 
fight by thy side for the freedom and for the glory of our 
land!' 

" But a cloud came over the countenance of the Thespian 
farmer, and he answered his son reproachfully. 

" * Boy, do I leave thee to a mean or an unworthy task ? 
Art thou become too proud to serve the mother who bore 
thee, or too wise to mind thy father's aflairs ?' 

•• And when the child reddened for shame and penitence, 
his mother spoke for him, taking him kindly by the hand 
where he stood beneath the portico of the door, hanging his 
curly head in silence : 

" * He means no harm, Stratiotes ; it is but natural that he 
should wish to be with thee, and so, too, should I, if I were 
strong enough to bear arms. But the time will come,* she 
said, addressing herself to the boy, and caressing his thick 



I20 THE WATER-REEDS. 

tresses with her white fingers, ' when thou, Iphios, shalt no 
longer be bidden to stay behind while thine elders go out 
to the battle. Next year, inaybe, thy father himself will 
help thee to brace the war-harness upon thy limbs ; mean- 
while thou must be patient, and gather strength for the 
manhood that is to come to thee.' 

''Then Iphios kissed his mother's hand and promised 
obedience, and she bade him go straightway to his work 
again in the fields with the farm labourers. And as he 
went, taking the low path along the shores of the river, the 
water-reeds that stood in the shallows beckoned him with 
their lissome waving hands, and shook their long green 
tresses, and sang softly in his ear of the blessed power 
and might of patience, that is able to make heroes of the 
feeble and the unrenowned, and gods of mortal men. And 
he passed on with the music of that song in his heart, to do 
his daily task in the pastures and orchards of his father. 

''Not many days after that, Stratiotes departed to join 
the army that was to march northwards to keep the moun- 
tain passes against the Oriental hosts, and the Thespian 
came with his sword in his hand to bid his wife and his 
son farewell, as they two sat together by the margin of the 
river Permessus. And when Iphios rose up to g^eet his 
father, as the good fashion was in the old heathen times, 
when sons revered their sires and young men their elders, 
Stratiotes laid his hand upon the boy's head and said 
to him: 

"'My son, I am going to leave thee a charge in my 
absence, which charge, if thou wouldst prove thyself a true 
Greek, thou wilt faithfully fulfil For the first duty a soldier 
must learn is Obedience. I set thee, therefore, to keep house 
for me while I am away at the war, and to guard thy mother, 
and to look diligently after the herds, and the fields, and 
the barn-presses. Obey thy mother also in everything that 
she would have thee do, and make no excuse to her, whether 
her bidding seem right or not in thine eyes. Whenever 
I can, I will send messages to thee, to let thee know how 
the campaigning prospers, and how it fares with me; but 
until I return, or thy mother desire it, desert not this house 
nor remove hence. We have both a service to do, my 
son; I, to fight for the land with sword and spear in the 
face of sudden alarms and dangers ; thou, to abide in 
the gates of our home, doing the duty of a sentinel, — ^which 
is not the less the business of a soldier, — waiting patiently 
at thy post in all fidelity of heart and cheerfulness of mind. 
For if thou prove worthy in the easier charge, I shall the 
better know to trust thee by and by with a manlier. But 
for the present Iphios, have patience.' 



THE WATER-REEDS. 121 

" Then he kissed his wife and tiie boy, and they all wept 
sore together, for they knew that farewell embrace might, 
perhaps, be their last. And Stratiotes heaved up his sword 
upon his thigh, and turning his face away from home, sped 
forth towards the Thespian camp, and Metis and her son 
stood watching until the crest of his helmet dipped below 
the slope of 5ie purple reach that outlay the farm-lands, 
and they could see him no more. 

" So gladly in the valiant old days men went forth to lay 
down their lives for the honour of their gods and their 
nation ; so patiently and bravely then, women and children 
jaelded up their beloved if the voice of the country called 
her sons to arms ! Ah, daughter of the Newer Age ! your 
civilization and your international commerce have cost you 
a noble and a genuine passion; — patriotism is quenched 
under the bushels of modem policy and philosophy !" 

And with the utterance of the last words, the voice of the 
phantom rises into a cry, a wailing, stirring cry, like two 
musical tones blent in one sound, a cry of mingled complaint 
and warning, and the shadowy palpitating form takes sud- 
denly a brighter luminance, and comes out before me sharp 
and distinct in the midst of the soft light, as though the 
miraculous wind which environs it had fanned it into a vehe- 
ment flame. But while I am watching, like flame it sinks 
again and grows shadowy as before, and the mystical breath- 
ing of the surrounding air only dallies lightly with the long 
floating veil and shroud-like garments that drape the shape 
of the spectre. And like the low symphony left among 
the swaying rushes when the blast that fiercely assailed 
them has passed away, recurs the plaintive recitative, sough- 
ing and sinking at intervals, but always conveying in every 
modulation a strong sense of latent power, self-restrained, 
and voluntarily repressed. 

" Days and nights when they mete out times of prosperity 
and happy love are like tall polished columns of victory, gar- 
landed with ample wreaths, and signalling each one some 
new delight or triumph. But days and nights when they 
measure the absence of a beloved one, are but blank un- 
welcome mile-stones, marking the way from Paradise across 
a barren and sunless waste, and without Patience one may 
well grow weary and faint on such a journey as that. 

" But although times were changed at the Thespian farm- 
house, and the voice and presence of its master no longer 
made it home, Metis and her son were no idle sentimental- 
ists ; and still the distaff was busy, and still the fleece was 
combed and carded, and the wool spun, and the hand- 
maidens were busy about their mistress with distaff and 
shuttle indoors, while Iphios and the men-servants toiled 



122 THE WATER-REEDS. 

in the fields, or threshed and winnowed briskly in the barns 
and garner-sheds. For Patience is always cheerful. 

'* There came to the farm one day, not long after the de- 
parture of Stratiotes, a citizen of Thespia, who had often 
visited Metis and her husband in pleasanter times, and 
whom Stratiotes had now charged with a letter to her and 
to his son. And he wrote that the council had decreed to 
send four thousand men under the command of Leonidas, 
one of the kings of Sparta, to keep the pass of Thermopylae 
by the Hot Gates, where were the warm sulphurous springs 
in which sick persons were wont to bathe, because there 
was medicinal virtue in the waters. Through this narrow 
pass, the land-troops of the Asiatic lord would be forced 
to make their track, for all along the southern boundary 
of Thessalia, the CEta hills rose up and barred the way 
against the advancing enemies of Greece. King Leonidas, — 
said the letter, — had brought with him three hundred men 
from Sparta, brave and lion-hearted as himself, and there 
were seven hundred Thespians, with Phocians and Thebans 
and men from Mycense ; but at best it was a pitiful band 
to keep the Gates against so many thousand legions as 
Xerxes was leading southward. And yet, notwithstanding 
this great disadvantage, Stratiotes bade his wife consider 
hopefully, that if Greece lacked in numbers, she was su- 
perior in moral power of resistance, because the soldiers of 
her scanty forces went forth as freemen to fight for their 
hearths and their holy shrines ; but the myriads which 
swelled the Persian host were soulless mercenaries and 
wretched slaves, bribed for lust of gain to pander to the 
ambition of the Eastern tyrant, or torn preremptorily from 
their homes to serve an arbitrary master, in whose cause 
they had no natural interest, and for whom they could feel no 
devotion, sympathy or admiration. ' To fight well/ pursued 
Stratiotes, * one must not wear fetters.* 

" I did not see the bearer of this letter deliver it to his 
friend's wife, for she received him in the house ; but when 
the family had dined, Metis and Iphios brought their guest 
out of doors, to sit in the customary seat on the river mai^e, 
under the larch and aspen trees, and there they talked 
together about the things Stratiotes had written. And 
when the visitor praised 3ie gallant Leonidas and his Spar- 
tan comrades, and told Metis how, before they quitted their 
native city, they had caused their own funeral rites to be 
performed, believing so surely that they went forth to their 
deaths, and yet going so gladly, I perceived that the large 
dark eyes of Iphios glowed with intense longing, and more 
than once, involuntarily he clenched his hands, as though he 
felt within their grasp the hard unyielding sword-hilt, and 



THE WATER-REEDS. 12$ 

oftentimes he sighed with all the bitterness of futile and 
passionate desire, while his glance roved about the quiet 
pasture and meadow-lands, and he panted for the stir of the 
fighting northward, and the clash of sounding spears and 
hauberks, and all the manly noise of war. But when the soft 
airs of the river shook the water - rushes, and they whis- 
pered their gurgling music and waved their blossoming russet 
heads to and fro, the fresh river smell came up from the midst 
of them, and cooled the fever in the burning heart of Iphios, 
filling it instead thereof with the strong refreshment of Pa- 
tience. For the reeds have no luscious perfume like that of 
the flowers, they breathe only the keen peculiar scent of the 
water, from which they draw their sustenance, and the re- 
storing strength of the wind which invigorates them. Even so 
also Patience makes not itself apparent by any acts or signal 
tokens of brilliant virtue, but is only the true and continuous 
evidence of the Christ-like life, and of the abiding presence of 
the Spirit of God. Therefore, also, the water-reeds are entirely 
green, which is the colour in particular of hope and refresh- 
ment, and, in the diviner sense, of that everlasting life which 
is the portion of the Saints who through patience inherit the 
promises of their Lord. Neither do the water-reeds bear 
flowers of any bright or delicate dyes, but only small brown- 
coloured blossoms, signifying thereby that Patience is not an 
active but a passive virtue, mightiest in retreat, and in its very 
nature repugnant to deeds of manifestation ; since, as I have 
said already, it is rather the strength and setting of other 
virtues than an independent virtue of itself. Without green 
leaves the loveliest flowers would look amiss, losing both 
brilliance and gr^ce ; and without patience, all the virtues 
would be spasmodic and feeble, having neither power of con- 
tinuance nor of edification. 

** Hear further, therefore, child of this new impetuous age, 
what I did for Iphios the Thespian in the iron times of 
the long past There were scant modes of correspondence 
then, and they who stayed at home were forced through 
many weary, anxious days and nights to endure the silence 
of their kindred in the camps, for messengers could rarely be 
sent unofficially, and horses* feet are slower far than the 
steam and posts of modern years. 

" Stratiotes went in the Grecian ranks to keep the gates of 
Thermopylae, and there came to Metis and her son never 
a word nor a token of him for many a dreary day. But at 
last, one evening, as the twilight was beginning to fall over 
the country, and the western slopes of Mount Helicon had 
shut out the last low streaks of the sunset, it befell that 
Metis went out of the house with one of her maidens to 
gather simples, and perceived a small company of armed men 



124 THE WATER-REEDS 

eastward beyond the farm-lands, going slowly along the way 
to Thebes. And when she saw that they carried Grecian 
ensigns, she stood still and sent her maid to call Iphios to 
her from the farm-stores, where he was at his business ; and 
when he came, she bade him run after the soldiers, and ask 
their leader what news he brought of the fight, and whether 
he or any of his battalion knew how Stratiotes fared. 

" So Iphios went to meet the company, and Metis stood by 
the river with her handmaid, watching him, and awaiting his 
return ; but the captain of the band, when Iphios had told 
him his errand, desired his comrades to halt beneath the 
trees of the roadside, and crossing the meadows with the 
boy,. came back with him to Metis, and saluted her by name. 

** * Fair mistress,' said he, * I would I had good tidings 
to give you, but the gods have ordered it otherwise. I and 
my company are Thebans, who return to our city after a long 
and toilsome journey, having chosen to abandon a leader 
whose designs for resisting Persia must assuredly end in 
miserable defeat.' 

" ' Who is this leader, sir ?' asked Metis. 

"'He is Leonidas,' answered the Theban, 'to whom four 
thousand men of Greece were lately entrusted, but now he 
commands only fourteen hundred.' 

" * Leonidas V cried the wife of Stratiotes. * Is not that 
the brave king of the race of Hercules, the warrior whom all 
Greece commended for his valiant heart ?* 

" * That may be,' replied the captain, scornfully, ' but I trow 
none have praised him for his wise head ! By this time he 
has spilt the best blood of Greece in a vain and senseless 
struggle.' 

" * I pray you, sir,' said Metis, ' explain the meaning of 
your words, for my son and I know nothing of all these 
things.' 

" ' Last night,* answered the Theban, ' a man from our 
camp, a traitor named Ephialtes, — may the gods torment 
him ! — betrayed us to Xerxes, and shewed one of his generals 
a narrow way across the lower ridge of the mountains, where 
the woods are thickest, to the end that a Persian cohort might 
be led down into the valley of the Phocians which lies on the 
near side of the springs, so as to take us in the rear, en- 
closing our army on all sides with Asiatic forces. Very early 
therefore this morning, before the dawn, our guards per- 
ceived the shimmer of the Persian spears in the openings 
of the forest, and moreover, there came to us one from the 
outer wall of the Hot Gates, with news of the enemy's move- 
ments. Then Leonidas, calling us together, warned us that 
before noon to-day we should be shut in by the foe who 
advanced every minute nearer upon our ranks, and that those 



THE WATER-REEDS. 1 25 

of US who believed it would be indiscreet and blameable 
to resist such fearful odds, should retreat while there was 
time. Then Megistias the seer added his wise words, and 
testified that the portents of the victim slain that morning 
were of disaster, and doom, and death. And we, when we 
heard that, and knew that to remain in our place would be 
madness unworthy of free and prudent men, elected to depart 
homewards before the unequal strife began, and with us 
went also many others, so that we quitted the camp an 
army of two thousand six hundred. But Leonidas and his 
Spartans, with some eleven hundred more, preferred to stay 
at Thermopylae, to be cut in pieces there like dead beasts in 
the shambles.' 

" Then said Metis very earnestly, when the Theban captain 
had made an end of his story, 

"'Sir, did my husband remain behind, — Stratiotes the 
Thespian, — is he still with Leonidas ?* 

" * Mistress,' answered the captain, ' all the Thespian men 
remained, and Stratiotes was of the number. I myself beheld 
him burnishing his spear for the fight, as my cohort quitted 
the Gates.' 

"*I thank the gods!' cried the Spartan woman, triumph- 
antly, ' for had Stratiotes returned with you, he should have 
tasted neither meat at my board nor rest upon my bed 1 
But he was found worthier ! ' 

" * Mistress,' retorted the Thespian, ang^ly, * your words 
are uncivil ! Do you taunt me with cowardice ? Is it right 
to waste the blood of noble men as water is poured upoa 
some arid field ?' 

'* ' Say, rather,' responded Metis, fixing him with her mild 
wise eyes, ' that such noble blood is sown as seed in a fruitful 
soil. For though indeed the ground receive it, there shall 
yet arise to Greece, from such deaths as these, a. race of 
heroes, fired with admiration and love of their fathers, eager, 
to imitate their deeds, and proud to follow the example 
of their glorious manhood. And in that coming generation 
of valiant soldiers, my son Iphios shall bear his part the 
better, remembering how dutifully his father feared not to 
die for the gods by the side of the brave Spartan king.' 

" But when he heard that, the Theban laughed incredu- 
lously, and departed, muttering to himself; and Metis turned 
and looked at her boy. 

" • Iphios,' she said, ' even now he who gave thee thy life 
may have lost his own for the sake of Greece. Let us en- 
treat the gods, my son, that thy father may not die in vain.* 

" Then where the captain of the Theban deserters had left 
them, Iphios and his mother and her handmaid knelt and 
adored the Immortals, praying that albeit that very day, now. 



d 



126 THE WATER-REEDS. 

dying behind the purple hills, should bear away with it into 
the place of shadows the spirits of Stratiotes and his fellow- 
soldiers, that yet the stedfast courage and undaunted service 
of so good and faithful a company might plead as a mighty 
oblation before the Divine Council, and redeem the land of 
Pallas Athenae. And when the prayer was ended, I lifted 
up my voice in the river shallows, and sobbed from the 
midst of my blossoming heart, ' Amen 1 Patience and faith- 
fulness shall conquer the world !' 

** Then forthwith the night fell darkly about the land, 
and high above the slow -gliding waters the cohorts of 
heaven came forth from the purple pavilion of the Great 
King, immoveable and stedfast, armed with innumerable 
shafts of steely radiance, and glittering in burnished panoply, 
— star above star, with grand patient eyes of light, defending 
the gates of God. 

"Two more days went by, and yet there came no tidings 
from Thermopylae. Many times I saw Iphios ascend a small 
hill that was close by a coppice on the farm-lands, and stand 
there shading his eyes with his hand, while he looked out 
eastward for some messenger going to Thespia or to Thebes 
with news of Leonidas and of his battalions. But after he 
had watched for a good while in this manner without success, 
and it grew towards sunset on the third day, he espied 
a man running alone in the direction of the town, with 
rough uncovered hair, and his apparel in great disorder. 
As he ran he halted now and then, and sometimes stumbled, 
as though he were spent with fatigue, and his countenance 
was pallid and disfigured with dust and sweat. Iphios called 
loudly to him from the place where he stood watching on the 
hillock. * What news of the war, friend ? I beseech thee, if 
thou knowest anything, give me tidings of King Leonidas 
and of the army at Thermopylae, but specially of Stratiotes 
the Thespian!' 

" Then, straightway, at the sound of her son's cry. Metis 
opened the door of the house and came out to hear the news. 
And when Iphios perceived his mother he went to meet her, 
and the man whom he had hailed followed him also, panting 
for breath as he drew near. He was clad in the garb of 
a Spartan helot, and his dress was torn in many places and 
dabbled with mire, and his feet bled upon the ground as 
he trod. But before Metis and her son had time to note all 
these things, the man lifted up his voice and cried aloud, 
striking his breast as he spoke, like one who bewails a ter- 
rible calamity. 

"'Alas, sir! what tidings do you look for at my lips? 
I am the slave of the Spartan citizen Eurytus, and I am 
returning to my lord's house with the news of his death. 




THE WATER-REEDS. 12/ 

For Leonidas is killed, and all that remained with him at 
the Gates ; not a man is left alive save myself and a few other 
helots, who fled to the mountains and hid there among the 
glens and morasses, waiting in despair and fear for a time 
to escape southwards. And as for that Stratiotes of whom 
you speak, I myself beheld him lying dead upon a heap of 
slain men, pierced with a score of Persian arrows, fallen with 
his face towards the camp of the enemy, for he died with his 
sword in his hand, and dropped upon the place where he 
fought But the victory was with the Asiatic king, and his 
army is even now marching southward behind my flying 
footsteps ; fly also, therefore, while there is yet time ; for 
Xerxes lost two thousand men at Thermopylae, so well and 
so bravely fought that handful of Grecian citizens ; wherefore 
there is rage and vexation in the hearts of the Persian cap- 
tains, and they will spare none, for they know not mercy.* 

" And with that, the helot turned again, and fled on, as 
he had come. 

**But when Metis heard that the victory was not with 
Greece, and that the Persians were marching towards Athens, 
the colour faded in her face, and she stood for a moment 
motionless and white as the marble divinity of a Phidian 
Pallas, with eyes that saw nothing save the passion of 
the burning soul behind them, and tense pallid lips re- 
straining a fire of noble anger and regret, too hot, and 
fierce, and deep to find a vent in sound. So for a 
moment she stood ; and then, tossing her arms above her 
veiled head, fell prone along the sedgy turf with a single 
half- articulate sigh, so low and soft that scarce the reeds 
themselves could catch the breath of it, and yet it was' 
the burden of a true and livelong love, the utterance of a 
name that had been talisman to the most wondrous loyalty 
and the noblest fortitude the world ever witnessed. 

"'Greece!' 

"Not her husband, not her own immediate loss and sorrow, 
nor the desolation of her home, nor her newly-made widow- 
hood ; but the degradation, the disgrace of the country she 
loved ! Gladly for Greece she had given Stratiotes, as she 
would have given Iphios also by-and-by, for indeed she knew 
that to them, likewise, it was honour to die in the war- 
harness, and that to such great souls death brought neither 
darkness nor extinction, for the Immortals made heavenly 
beacons of them, that the whole world might see them 
through all the long years to come, grand and peaceful 
in the blue open firmament : Perseus, and Bellerophon, and 
Heracles, and many another doer of glorious deeds, spirits 
of heroes that rejoice for ever with the holy gods them- 
selves in the asphodel gardens of heaven. 



/ 



128 THE WATER-REEDS. 

"'Greece!' 

"In that one word the Spartan woman uttered a whole 
creed, rich in the pathos of a master emotion which has 
long since died out of the earth ; and fitly with the sound 
of die much-loved name upon her lips, she breathed away her 
soul, and passed with the dying sun through the dim haze 
of twilight to the land of another and a fairer dawn. 

" Trembling and dismayed, Iphios raised his mother in his 
arms, and fixed upon the white deathly face that lay upturned 
in the grey light a gaze of earnest and terrible anguish. For 
through the half-closed lips of Metis, a thin scarlet stream 
flowed slowly downward upon her white vested bosom, stain- 
Jug its pure drapery and the white immobile hand droop- 
ing across it with a dye that was more intense and sudden 
in its warm clear brightness than the ruddiest bar of sunset 
in the western sky. In that shock of tempestuous grief 
which had broken up the great deeps of her heart, life 
itself had been rent away from her, and as Iphios breath- 
lessly scanned the drooped, quivering eyelids, and heard the 
thick convulsive gurgle of blood in her throat, he knew that 
even then he was left to bear the coming doom alone. Where 
he knelt by the river-side, the golden glow of the sunset 
brightening his dark curls, and irradiating the wan, still 
face on his bosom with a rosy mocking flame that seemed 
to ape the semblance of that life which too much love and 
sorrow had quenched for evermore, the son of Metis and 
Stratiotes lifted up his heart to the gods of Greece, and 
prayed for the gift of Patience. 

" ' Let me not fail in courage, O lords of heaven !* he cried, 
•neither suffer me to weary in my obedience, for I come 
of a strong race that has always loved brave men, and hated 
renegades to the death. I am the son of a soldier, — let me 
live as my father died I* 

*' And the wind of the evening that bore aloft these holy 
words, swept across the shallows as it went, and awoke the 
music of God in the heart of the Water -reeds; and they 
stretched their long pliant arms towards the kneeling figure 
beside them, bending their stately, reverent heads, and calling 
to him : 

"'Take courage, Iphios, knowing this, that the trial of 
your faith workeSi Patience !' 

"Then the sun sank; and the boy, lifting his gaze from 
the face of the dead, turned himself towards the west^ where 
the glor> y the day had gone down, and the cool vernal- 
eyed twilight, like the clear deep sea-green in summer-time, 
covered the far reaches with the colour of Hope, spreading 
upward through the rising mists of earth till it touched the 
summit of heaven and lost itself there in the fulness of 



THE WATER-REEDS. 1 29 

the sacred Amethyst And while Iphios beheld it, the 
voice of the river-reeds answered him again from their place 
in the glassy water that was all bright and scintillant with 
the sheen of reflected glory : 

"'Take patience, Iphios, son of courage and of good counsel, 
for Patience is the beginning of Hope !' 

"They performed the funeral office for Metis in haste, 
because every hour the army of the Persians approached 
nearer and nearer; and when the last rites were over, the 
serving men and women besought Iphios to abandon the 
farm and retire with them to Trcezen or -/Egina, ' for thither,' 
said they, ' all the people of the country round us who value 
their lives have already fled/ 

" But Iphios answered them ; * Fly if you will, you are free 
to depart, for I will detain none of you. But as for me, 
your master charged me to stay at my post unless my 
mother bade me otherwise, and she died here giving me no 
word of dismissal nor even of warning. And, therefore, 
because the place of her death is dear to me, and because 
I hold my father's house and goods as a sacred keeping, 
I shall abide by them, defending them as best I may, until 
the gods send us easier times, and I am able to recall you. 
But if not, I am still content, I can die in no better place 
than this.' 

" So he sent them all away, and returned to the farm- 
stead alone. And day by day he went out as usual to his 
work, only that now he had to do the labour of the servants 
also ; and the flocks were folded and the steers fed, as they 
had been before the herdsmen abandoned them, for Patience 
is not found in idleness, but in dutiful endurance. 

"Then came the end. For one night, when the hours of 
the darkness were far spent, and Iphios was asleep in the 
house, and the stars were growing large and liquid with 
coming dawn, the reeds of the Permessian rivulet were 
moved by a strange, unwonted air, air that parched instead of 
refreshing, air that carried deadly heat and oppression on its 
swift wings, such as had never before breathed across the 
open pasture-levels of Boeotia. 

"And over all the eastern reaches arose a red glowing 
light that was not the light of dawn, and it smote full upon 
the closed casements of the farmhouse, and awoke the boy 
as he lay alone in his silent chamber within, dreaming per- 
chance in fantastic allegories of the glory of that beatific 
Vision yet unrevealed to men, but awaiting only the fulness 
of time to pour forth its wondrous consolation upon a 
noble army of martyrs and patient soldier-like saints, whose 

K 



134 THE WATBR-REKDS. 

upon wave of airy motion sweeps over the cloudy form, 
I entreat the Spirit, ere she vanishes into the sunlight, 
to tell me whence comes the strange and rhymical wind 
which surrounds and supports her so mysteriously. 

" Daughter of earth," she responds, *' this also is a parable. 
For this wind, though it continually rends and divides me, 
can yet in no wise dissolve my substance nor scatter my 
members, but the rather strengthens and renews me. So, 
likewise, the patient soul is neither distracted nor daunted 
by trial, but rather inflamed thereby to greater vitality. 
And as the Water- reeds cannot utter their music unless 
they are stirred and awakened by the breath of the wind, 
so neither can the soul of man give forth its melody of itself 
alone, but must be moved thereto by the power of the Spirit 
of God. ' Unto Him therefore give the praise, who worketh 
in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure I' " 

And with that last word the phantom stretches her 
ghostly hands towards me in token of farewell, and before 
I can speak again she has melted into a ray of flickering 
sunshine, that dances and twinkles gaily on the brown heads 
and green lissome stems of the rushes at my feet. 

Have I, after all, been dreaming again ? Maybe ; but the 
dream, I think, is worth remembering nevertheless. The air 
is growing chilly, — rise, my dear friend, you must surely have 
been asleep too! Good-bye, water-reeds, — we are going 
home! 



THE MARIGOLD. 

A STORY OF THE FRANCO-GERMAN WAR. 




" I never felt my nature so divine 
As at this saddest hour.'' 

Lovell Beddocs, 

|OME time ago, I sat reading at evening-time beside an 
open window which gave upon the picturesque street 
of a little German town. Between the leaves of my 
book lay a dead and faded marigold, whose history I did 
not know, for it had dropped, just dried and shrivelled as it 
was, from the pages of a nun's Prayer-book, as she rose from 
her devotions before the altar of a neighbouring church. 
And I, interested in the incident, and impressed by the beau- 
tiful pale face of the young *' religious " herself, had carefully 
lifted the flower from the stone pavement, and ever since had 
treasured it as a memorial of sacred, and perhaps melancholy 
associations. Rapidly the time of sunset approached, and as 
the golden doors of heaven opened in the far west to admit 
the angel of the Day, a beam of mellowing light fell upon the 
leaves of the volume I held, and attracted my attention to 
the glories before me. The afternoon had been one of brief 
and sudden showers, and now, round the shining lake of 
sunset radiance, lay shadowy continents of grey cumuli, with 
dusky fringes and inner tracts of dark hill-like circles, over 
which was flung, distinct and beautiful, its topmost height 
lost in heavenly glory, the seven - coloured bridge of the 
angels of God. 

Then, as I sat gazing dreamily at this beautiful scene, 
there stole upon my senses the reposeful, insidious drowsi- 
ness which comes of silent contemplation ; the rainbow faded, 
the sun sank, my book glided slowly down upon my knee, 
and I, yielding to the mesmeric influence of the balmy air 
and soothing hour, passed contentedly into the land of 
slumber. 

And, presently, I dreamed that adown a ray of golden 
light there came floating into the room before me a lovely 
spirit, with airy arms extended downwards towards the 
earth. She was covered with a veil, like a mourner, but 
beneath the tawny web-like tissue I could see that all her 
cloudy limbs glowed through and through, as though with 



136 THE MARIGOLD. 

hidden fire. Then in a sweet voice, low and tender, as the 
wail of an Eolian harp, she thus revealed to me her name 
and story. 

*' I am," she said, " the spirit of the dead marigold, which 
lies between the pages of your romance, and I dwell in the 
garden of the rainbow, the Paradise of flowers, where the 
faded blooms of earth are renewed in undying beauty, to 
give eternal joy and refreshment to the holy angels of the 
Lord. 

"Just outside the walls of this German hamlet there is 
a little Friedhof, a garden full of crosses pointing heaven- 
ward over many long green hillocks. Wreaths of immortelle 
flowers and tiny pictures of saints have been laid by pious 
hands upon most of the graves, and around some of them 
are planted shining rings of yellow marigolds. There, once, 
in the midst of such a group, I also bloomed, — the flower of 
grief and pain, whose petals are bitter as aloes to the taste, 
— fit emblem of care, and mourning, and desolation. In the 
evening, when it was fine weather, a little French peasant- 
girl came, with her book or needlework, to sit upon the soft 
dry grass beside the two graves close to the spot where 
I blossomed. I believe she planted me there with her own 
hands, before I opened my great golden eye upon the world 
at all; but, be that as it may, I knew that now she took 
much care of me, and never suffered me to droop for want 
of water, nor to be devoured by noxious insects. • 

" Sometimes, when she came to see me, she brought white 
or yellow garlands of immortelle flowers, which she hung 
tenderly about the little wooden crosses at the heads of the 
two narrow mounds ; sometimes her offering was a posy of 
wild blossoms, or even a little chaplet of rosary beads, which 
the priest had blessed for her. She was an orphan, and it 
was her father and mother who rested in those two long 
graves. 

" A sorrowful little maiden she was, — small and shrivelled 
in stature, but sedate beyond her fifteen years, and I never 
saw her mingling with the noisy children who often passed 
me on their way home from school ; for there was a shady 
footpath through the cemetery, and people came and Went 
along it all day, as they do along the paths of any other 
public garden. 

"Sometimes, indeed, on very fine evenings, a few merry 
voices called to her from the meadow beyond, or from the 
stile at the end of the long avenue : ' Marie ! Marie ! we 
want you ! Come and help us to play !* 

"But she never went, and I think they only invited her 
out of kindness, for the cry was seldom repeated. 

" Among the many villagers who trod the cemetery path. 



THE MARIGOLD. 




THE MARIGOLD. I37 

two figures were especially familiar to me, for I saw them 
there every day, and always at the same hours. One of them 
was a tall stalwart youth of about twenty-two, with a hand- 
some frank face, and a smile as bright as the sunshine, fair 
brown curls, and German blue eyes; a boy to make any 
father hopeful, and any mother proud. The other was a 
maiden of some eighteen years, golden-haired and fair, too ; 
but there was no likeness between them save the likness of 
a happy fellowship, which illumined their glad faces, and 
beamed in their radiant eyes. Every evening, when the 
young man came home from his work, the maiden went 
to meet him by the stile at the end of the footpath, and 
they walked through the grave-garden together on their way 
to the village. Strange, indeed, and pathetic it seemed to 
me, to behold youth and love thus walking hand-in-hand 
between the rows of low silent habitations wherein the dead 
lay evermore so lonely and regardless. 

"These young people called each other Hermann and 
Hertha, and I thought they had neither ears nor eyes for 
anything except themselves. But, at last, one evening, when 
the young man's work was over earlier than usual, and 
Hertha met him at the stile a full half hour before the 
ordinary time, they loitered in the beautiful cemetery-garden, 
and seated themselves on the green turf, in the shadow of 
a quivering aspen-tree, — ^the tree which is always shuddering 
and sorrowing for the terrible part which it had in the Pas- 
sion of the Lord ■. 

''And while they rested there, Hermann, lazily toying 
with the daisies around him, turned his bright eyes from 
Hertha's smiling face, to the face of the orphan child, where 
she sat, like a little guardian angel, beside the two graves 
she loved better than anything else in this world. And he 
asked her gently, whence she came, and why she always 
spent her evenings there, instead of playing or rambling 
about the meadows with the girls and boys of the village. 
Little Marie looked up from her knitting shyly, and told 
him that her father and mother lay buried there. That they 
were Alsatian peasants, who had travelled with her to this 
neighbourhood in search of employment, and that, while they 
were still strangers in the place, God took them both in one 
week ; and she was left in the wide world with no friend but 
the curS of the village, and he was only a poor man. But 
he sent her to school, said Marie, and she was earning some- 
thing now, — very little it was, — by her needlework, and by 

• It is related in the folk-lore of Germany, that the cross upon which Christ 
suffered was made of aspen-wood ; and that in remembrance of the fact, the awed 
tree has trembled ever since, and it is thence regarded as the emblem of lamenta- 
tion and fear. 



138 THE MARIGOLD. 

minding the babies at the cottages while the mothers were 
away, or helping the housewives in their business sometimes. 
But when her day's work, whatever it chanced to be, was 
over, she always came to sit by the place where they had 
laid her father and mother; for she loved those two low 
graves too much to leave them for any dances or games or 
merry sports in the world. 

" And as she bent over her shining needles again, she began 
to weep, silently and intensely, out of the bitter depth of 
a grief which had already bleached to winter ashen the gold 
of her brief April life, and changed the tender-hearted child 
into a sorrowful lonely woman. 

^ Hermann watched her awhile without speaking, but his 
large blue eyes were full of compassion, and he would have 
said something to comfort her, had he only known what 
words to choose. But Hertha plucked him sharply by the 
sleeve, and her beautiful face looked vexed and peevish as 
she whispered to him that he ought to talk only to her, and 
not to interest himself in strangers. Marie did not catch the 
rebuke, for it was uttered in low, suppressed tones, but the 
marigolds heard it well, and they perfectly understood what 
baneful emotion it was that was busy in Hertha*s heart 
She was too muck blessed. She was so happy in her full 
possession of Hermann, and in the knowledge of his great 
love for herself, that she had no sympathy to give to any- 
one else, and she grudged every word and look which he 
spent upon the little French maiden. Hertha thought that 
all Hermann's tenderness was due to her alone, and that 
none other than she had any claim on him. Her felicity had 
made her selfish and hard, so that instead of opening her 
heart to all the world, and crying, — ' See how happy I am ; 
come and drink of the abundance of my joy, come and be 
cheered by the sunlight that brightens my life,' — she chose 
to shut herself up with her treasure in a strong room of her 
own making, and cared nothing for the poverty and deso- 
lation of the souls outside in die cold. ' I have my happi- 
ness,' she said, * I have my prize, what are the misery and 
bereavement of strangers to me } I am going to enjoy my- 
self, and have no taste for doing anything else. And Her- 
mann shall not sully my pleasure by importing into it the 
woes of others, nor bestow on them any part of a love and 
sympathy which I claim to be wholly mine by right.' 

"And while the ruddy -hued marigolds looked up in 
IJertha's face, and saw these cruel thoughts reflected in 
her fair maiden eyes, the evening breeze passed swiftly 
over the shining petals and stirred them as with a strong 
emotion, giving them power to utter the words of God. 
And the flowers stretched their slender throats, and raised 



THE MARIGOLD. 1 30 

their tawny faces to Hertha, and munhured sadly, — 'Bear 
ye one another's burdens : weep with them that weep.' 

**But Hertha heard only the sound of the breeze among 
the leaves, and knew not that it was the breath of the dear 
God, whispering to her dry and hardened heart, and bidding 
her to bend like the yielding grasses and field-flowers, before 
the gentle influence of sympathizing love. Her ears were 
deaf to the many voices of nature, and my tender reproof 
was uttered in vain for her. 

'' But the rustling which the wind made among the mari- 
golds attracted Hermann's attention towards them, and with- 
out answering the complaint of Hertha, he continued as he 
bent towards me, 'Are these flowers also your care, little 
Marie? you appear to have bestowed great pains upon 
them.' And when she answered 'Yes ;' he added with gentle 
tenderness, ' You have chosen well, my child, for marigolds 
are hardy plants, they brave the bitterest winters, and are 
self-sowing, so that they do not need replacing every year 
like other blossoms. Did you know that when you chose 
thenr to put here }* 

"'Surely,' interrupted Hertha, interested in spite of herself, 
because Hermann was interested, and resolved to play a part 
at least in a conversation which she had failed to terminate, 
' surely that must be the flower of Love which endures all 
storms, and renews itself spontaneously every year!' And 
as she spoke, she blushed and laughed, and let her silky 
hair drop over the young man's shoulder. 

" ' Alais, no, Fraulein,' answered Marie, bending her sorrow- 
ful Qyes upon me ; ' it is the flower of grief and bitterness ; 
and in France we always plant it about the graves of the 
dead, to signify the pain we suffer in being parted from our 
dear ones, whose bodies lie at rest beneath the earth out of 
which all the flowers spring. And we call it Souci, for care 
and regret are perennial to souls on this side of earth.' 

" Hertha looked in surprise at the little homilist. It was 
very strange, she thought, to hear a mere child discourse in 
this grown-up fashion : even she herself, who was so much 
older, knew nothing of care or regret* 

"'You French have droll notions, then,' she rejoined, 
shortly, addressing Marie for the first time. *ffV call this 
flower of the churchyard Gold-blume^ the golden flower.' 

*" It is both, I think,' answered little Marie, in a thoughtful, 
musing tone, that made Hertha wonder at her more and 
more : ' care and sorrow first, that turn to gold for us by- 
and-by, and that are gold, too, all the time, if only we 
understood their ministry and their meaning rightly.' 

" But all this was sheer folly to Hertha. What had she 
to do with grief or bitterness while Hermann was beside 



I40 THE MARIGOLD. 

her ? Impatiently she turned to him again, and urged him 
to rise and come away. 

"'The sun is setting,' she cried, *and the old grandmother 
will be expecting us home. Come, dearest, I am sure 
you have rested here long enough.' And nodding her head 
carelessly at Marie in token of farewell, she led the young 
man off down the avenue ; and as they went, the dying, 
inconstant sunshine peeped between the branches upon their 
retreating figures and danced delusively before their feet, as 
gaily as though it were going to last for ever, and had no 
intention at all of passing away. And yet, even then, the 
sunshine was fading fast, and before long the last streak 
of daylight would have utterly sunk in the west, and night 
would have enveloped earth and heaven in her melancholy 
gloom and silence. 

" Another day passed ; and little Marie was there again 
in the burial-place. ' God's Acre,' the Germans call it, and 
the words carry with them a beautiful and significant sense 
of beatitude which is pleasant, I think, to dwell upon. Again 
Hertha came along the pathway under the lindens to meet 
her handsome friend at their trysting-wicket ; and as she 
passed me, the orphan child looked up from her needlework, 
and greeted her with so wistful an air that Hertha stopped 
involuntarily, and answered the salute in quite a gracious 
mood. 

" ' Is he your brother ?' asked Marie, looking earnestly into 
the beautiful face before her ; * he who is always with you ?' 

" * No,' replied Hertha, with a rosy blush, * we are betrothed, 
— ^we are to be husband and wife.' 

"'And you love each other very much, then?' questioned 
the child, naTvely. 

" * Oh, yes !' cried Hertha, clasping her hands in the fervour 
of a passionate nature ; ' Hermann is more than all the world 
to me !' Then suddenly checking herself and resuming her 
former dignity, she added in a colder tone, ' But you cannot 
understand this yet ; you know nothing of love.' 

** Little Marie glanced at the two graves in silence. They 
spoke for her, and Hertha, seeing the significant look in the 
child's wounded ^y^s^ made haste to tender some sort of 
excuse for her impetuosity. 

*"Such love as mine, I mean!' she cried, reddening. *It 
is quite a different thing from any other, you know: it is 
much better and stronger. No other love is to be compared 
to it ; if I were to lose it, I should die.' 

**She spoke rapidly, with a fervid absorbed expression 
upon her face, and her eyes stedfastly directed towards the 
place of tryst Hermann was not yet in sight ; how long he 
tarried! 



THE MARIGOLD. I4I 

"'Shall you be married soon?' asked the little mourner 
gently, after a moment's pause. 

" * Yes, soon ; oh, very soon/ 

''Again the answer was hurried and passionate in its 
utterance, but it had scarcely died upon her lips before 
Hermann himself appeared, advancing slowly towards us, 
and with a cry of joyous recognition Hertha ran to meet 
him. But the young man's eyes betrayed traces of recent 
tears, and the hand that was laid fondly in the eager grasp 
of his betrothed trembled under the power of an emotion 
he vainly strove to conceal. With passionate love the young 
girl hung upon his neck, and entreated him to speak ; but 
for a minute he stood silent, straining her almost fiercely to 
his breast, as though by that tender and ardent gesture he 
defied some invisible enemy to tear her from his faithful 
embrace. Suddenly he withdrew himself, and holding her 
out from him at arm's-length, gazed earnestly into her 
terrified face. 

"'The war!' he cried wildly ; 'O Hertha, the war!' 

"I had heard of this war many times lately, from the 
people who passed to and fro through the cemetery, 
and talked to each other as they went. And I knew also, 
from these fragmentary conversations, that it was daily ex- 
pected some of the villagers would be called to the battle- 
fields. For in Germany every man is a soldier, and may 
be bidden to assume arms in the ranks, whenever the necessi- 
ties of Fatherland demand the lives of its sons. It did not 
therefore surprise me to hear Hermann tell the weeping girl 
who leaned on his bosom, that the Meister of the atelier 
where he daily worked, had that morning received an official 
notification claiming for the country the services of his 
artisans, and warning the young men to hold themselves 
in readiness for immediate marching orders. But how 
terrible was Hertha's misery on hearing these evil tidings! 
In that cemetery I had borne silent testimony to the suffer- 
ing of many a mourner bereft of his dearest treasure ; I had 
marked the tears of many a sorrowful group gathered about 
the unclosed grave of a beloved one, but never had it been 
my lot to witness grief so wild, so intense, so appalling, as 
that which I now beheld. No anguish of parting from the 
dead could equal in abandonment or despair the anguish 
of this farewell to the living ! O Love, how sweet thou art 
in thy delights, — ^how bitter in thy sorrows! So desperate 
and profound was the agony of this German maiden, that 
neither Hermann's tender caresses nor the tearful adjura- 
tions of little Marie, availed to afford her the least conso- 
lation. Madly she clasped her betrothed to her wounded 
heart, in a frenzied tumultuous passion of love that had, 



142 THE marigold; 

something dreadful in it, and cried aloud upon God to 
destroy them both with His lightning where they stood, 
rather than suffer them to be parted thus! Hermann 
hushed the wild appeal with his lips ; he drew down the 
white lifted face upon his breast, and smoothed the soft 
dbordered hair with his trembling fingers. Then, after 
a little while, he led her gently away homeward ; and 
hand -in -hand, as it was their wont to walk together, they 
went with slow faltering steps down the dark sombre avenue, 
where no beaming light danced to-night, for the hour was 
late, and the sun had set; — and so, broken-hearted and 
silent, they passed out of the cemetery. Never again, O 
Hermann, to enter it hand-in-hand with thy beloved 1 . . . 

"For many weeks I saw them there no more. Little 
Marie still came in the evening to her old place by the 
two graves, and the villagers went to and fro, and talked 
of the war, and of the tidings which reached their homes 
from the camp, and of the great victories which were being 
won for Fatherland ; but I heard nothing of Hermann. 
• •^Then the days grew shorter; the summer roses around 
me shed their last blooms and perished ; dead leaves fell 
thickly upon the turf, and I, too, yielding to the touch of 
doom, latest of all the flowers in the Friedhof, began to 
drop my queenly headgear, and to fold my mantle of 
shrivelled leaves tightly over my chilled heart. 

"Just one golden cresset remained, puny and rusty indeed, 
but braving yet the early November atmosphere, when on 
a certain morning a new grave was dug, not far from the spot 
I occupied, and people gathered round the freshly-turned 
earth, and spoke to each other in subdued voices about the 
death of one whom they had all known familiarly, and who 
was to be buried here to-day. It was a youth, they said, who 
had died of wounds received in a recent battle ; and an old 
woman related how his regiment left him to the care of 
strangers in the hospital of a distant town, and how he 
begged to be sent back to his own village, that he might 
look once more on the face of his betrothed, and die. So, 
said the old woman, his request was granted, for the surgeons 
knew his wounds were mortal, and that no treatment of theirs 
could save his life, and they laid him in an ambulance and 
sent him home. 

"But while the gossip still went on, there came up the 
avenue beneath the shadow of the linden branches, — between 
which the snow-flakes now began to drop, and the winds of 
winter to sough, — a little funeral procession, deeply pathetic 
in its simplicity, sublimely solemn in its touching reality and 
earnestness. Upon the violet pall which shrouded the coffin 
Xhere were laid side by side two garlands, — one of laurel, the 



THE MARIGOLD. 1 43 

other of dried marigolds. The first bore witness to the glory 
of a dead hero, the other to the heart-rending of her who 
should have been an artisan's wife. She followed, leaning 
upon the arm of the good priest who had been so kind to 
the French orphan, and behind them walked little Marie 
herself, with her pale face and her large intelligent eyes, 
telling her rosary sadly as she went. Then they gathered 
round the grave, and the promised bride of the dead man 
raised the black veil which hitherto had covered her features, 
and stood beside the bier of her beloved, like a marble 
woman, — white, cold, motionless, and heedless of the falling 
snow. 

" It was Hertha ! She had lost all ! 

" Then arose the prayerful wail of the Miserere ; and the 
storm-wind, moaning organ-like through the tossing aspen- 
boughs, swept down upon me, and shook from my withered 
lips the solemn antiphon : ' Incerta et occulta sapientise Tua 
manifestasti mihi ^ V 

" And again in the same plaintive Psalm : * Domine, labia 
mea aperies ; et os meum annuntiabit laudem Tuam ^ I' 

"For it is the divine gift of understanding which alone 
avails to grasp the true meaning of suffering ; to interpret 
God's hieroglyph of Pain, whence charity and sympathy 
draw their holy being ; and to make of the bitter Souci 
a Gold-Blume of inestimable price. 

" The accents of the concluding responsory died away, borne 
aloft upon the hurtling wings of the snow-wind, the grave 
was covered with earth, and the little crowd of mourners and 
spectators slowly dispersed. Then also went the good pastor 
himself, not without a kindly benison upon the head of the 
desolate widow-maid, where yet she stood unmoved beside 
the resting-place of her lost love ; a marble woman, tearless, 
pulseless, frozen- hearted beneath a touch that was sharper 
and more icy-keen than that of the frost beneath her feet, 
or the bitter air upon her brow. 

" But when the priest had departed, and the flutter of his 
black cassock was hidden from sight beyond the farthest tree 
of the avenue, Hertha, alone with her dead, fell suddenly 
upon her knees on the crisp hard earth, and tossed her arms 
wildly upward towards the grey November sky. 

"It was a strange picture, — this passionate woman, with 
the wan lifted face, the shining hair of gold, and the heavy 
black dress streaming about her upon the blank white ground, 
— a strange picture, vivid in its contrasts, weird and ghastly 

•» The uncertain and hidden things of Thy wisdom, Thou hast made manifest 
unto me. 
<" Thou shalt open my lips,0 Lord ; and my mouth shall declare Thy praise ! 



144 THE MARIGOUX 

in its terrible realism. Then from the pallid lips there burst 
a sudden cry, a wail of utter despair and agony, more grievous 
far than any tears, — the cry of a woman's soul in exquisite 
torture ; without hope, without understanding, without human 
sympathy. 

" ' O Lord, Lord, Thy ways are hard to bear ! Men are 
not cruel as Thou art. Thou Ruler of Life, merciless and un- 
compassionate I My god is dead I is dead I is dead ! I shall 
hear his voice no more I I have lost all !' 

" She fell along the frozen clods of the new-made grave, 
and moaned. 

" Footsteps, swift and soft, came over the snow behind her, 
and a light hand touched her upon the shoulder. 

"'Hertha!' 

"The gentle child-like voice was familiar to her, and with 
a slow weary gesture she raised herself, and turned her deathly 
features upon the pitying face of little Marie. 

**'I saw you meant to stay here,' whispered the French 
girl, bending tenderly over the poor mourner, 'so I waited 
till everybody was gone, and then ran back. Take my cloak, 
Hertha, 'tis bitter cold, and the snow is falling.' 

" 'I don't care for that I I like the cold ! It is nothing to 
me! See!' 

" And she flung back the dark veil from her head, and let 
the white flakes drop upon her yellow hair. But Marie 
hastily wrapped her own woollen mantle about the frenzied 
girl, and warmed the icy hands of Hertha in hers, while she 
sought gently to draw her away from Hermann's grave. 

" * You do not know what you say now,' argued the child, 
caressively, in her soft Gallic German ; and there stole over 
her tender face the shadow of that serious womanly look 
I had seen there when first she spoke to Hertha's betrothed 
about her dead parents. ' I know what that is, that you do 
not care, for I, too, felt just like it once ; but time is good to 
us. You must trust to God and Time. It is because I also 
have suffered, that I understand and love you now.' 

" But the heart of Hertha was wounded too sorely to feel 
the sweetness of the dropping balm as yet She covered her 
stony face with her hands, and moaned ' I want no love but 
Hermann's ! I never sought any other love, I never cared for 
any other ! I have lost all !' 

" Little by little, with mild compassionate words and ges- 
tures, Marie drew her companion away, and the falling snow- 
flakes hid them speedily from sight, as they went down the 
long white path towards the cemetery wicket 

"Many days elapsed, and they returned not; my last 
tawny blossom froze in the bleak atmosphere, but still the 
life was in me, when presently, one sunny noontide late in 



/ 



THE MARIGOLD. 




"She ipoko. iBZliiK 4o>D DpOD Ibe XulgDU pluitit UiB root at ttu two tnTM."— (To/are p.lli.) 



THE MARIGOLD. 1 45 

December, when the frost was yielding under foot, and the 
birds were chirping faintly in the withered rose-bushes, they 
were there again. Marie, with her childish figure and her 
woman's face, and Hertha, in her widow's garb, paler and 
deeper-eyed than she used to be in the old days, but lovelier 
so and sweeter far, than when I saw her first in the full rose 
of her selfish, petulant beauty. 

" She spoke, gazing down upon the marigold-plant at the 
foot of the two graves, and I noticed that the delicate voice 
had lost its careless jubilant ring, and had grown subdued 
and thoughtful ; a voice to match the face in tenderness ; 
for speech is made sweeter by tears, as music is sweeter that 
sounds from the sea. 

" 'Marie, your Gold-Blume is dead. See here, not a single 
flower remains ! Alas ! how well I recollect our conversation 
about it that September evening, and my own foolish utter- 
ances, and your replies, which then I thought so old-fashioned 
and incomprehensible ! Ah, Souci / bitter Souci du Jardin 
des Moris I thou art indeed undying I thou art a real immor- 
telle ! for neither heat can wither, nor frost destroy the germs 
of thy hardy being. Now, indeed, thou seemest to be dead, 
but the spring will revive thee in fresh youth and vigour; and, 
while with care one must gather the seeds and foster the off- 
shoots of the frail blossoms of love, thou, O flower of sorrow 
and dole, renewest thyself unheeded year by year 1 To thee 
the returning winters bring no real decay, for every spring- 
time finds thee again in thy place, wearing always the same 
hereditary coronal ; self- perpetuating and unchanged !' 

" * Yet,' said Marie, softly, as she bent over me, * 'tis a Gold" 
blume too, this imperishable Souci I ' 

" ' I thought so once,' answered Hertha, in mournful tones, 
* but what is the good of sorrow ? Am I better off because 
I have lost my heart's beloved ?' 

** * Yes,' responded the child-philosopher, firmly. * Better 
off: for now you have an affinity with the universe, and with 
the grand world of spirit. One with whom you are most 
familiar, one to whom you are ever the dearest, has passed 
into the dawning light of the perfect day. Rise with him, 
through sphere after sphere ! ' 

" * But he is lost to me !' cried Hertha, lifting her earnest 
eyes to the cold blue space overhead, as though she sought 
to pierce its blinding deeps, and find therein some shadowy 
semblance of the face she had loved. 

•''Lost!' 

" * Not so, dear Hertha ; the golden Souci has taught me 
a sweeter lesson than that 1 It has taught me that if grief 
and care are perennial, so also is the precious treasure of 
hun.an love ! That is the indestructible gold which fire mars 

L 



146 THE MARIGOLD. 

not but refines, the flower of gold which dies not with dying 
spring or summer ; which the rank atmosphere of the charnel- 
house cannot tarnish, nor the bitterness of tears corrode ; but 
which ever blossoms most richly upon the very graves of 
the dead I' 

" ' Alas/ answered Hertha, a mist before her jasper-clear 
eyes, ' I know that your words are true, but my heart returns 
them only an uncertain echo ! You have learnt more in your 
fifteen years of existence than I ! ' 

" ' When one's existence of fifteen years is such as mine 
has been, one learns many things,* rejoined Marie, gravely. 
* Human life is not measured by the year, as cloth is meted 
by the ell. I am older than many a woman whose age 
doubles mine. To live alone is often to live twice one's 
time. If, therefore, I seem to assume too much, or to teach 
when I ought only to condole, you must forgive me, Hertha ; 
for somehow you have always hitherto seemed to me younger 
than I. But now, we are of equal age/ 

" I put the pretty broken German sentences she used into 
words which I think may render their sense more intelligibly 
to you, but I cannot reproduce the earnest tones and the 
simple grace, which gave their meaning its power and tender- 
ness. But Hertha, no longer hindered by a too great hap- 
piness, felt the deep force of the pathetic apology, for over the 
once cold and arid nature of Hermann's betrothed, there had 
arisen the gracious life-giving warmth of holy sympathy. 
Not the full light as yet, but the dawning of it She took 
the orphan girl to her own bruised heart, and whispered in 
low tones that she loved her, and that henceforth they would 
be sisters to one another. And then they were silent ; a quiet 
brooding sense of serenity descended upon them like a bless- 
ing ; and there was no further need of words between them 
for awhile. The communion of sorrow is sweeter at times 
than even that of joy, for joy leaves nothing to be desired, 
but sorrow yearns, and seeks redemption. 

"The clamorous voice of the chimes, ringing the four 
quarters in the belfry of the village church, broke the spell- 
like stillness, and then came a single reverberating stroke 
from the brazen hammer of the great clock itself, which 
evermore looked down from its high tower upon the buyers 
and sellers in the market-place, — like a round, sleepless, 
open eye of Time. And while the heavy sound yet thrilled 
and quelled through the air, a woman's voice from the 
wicket-gate summoned Hertha to the family Mittag-essen ; 
and for that day the conference between the two maidens 
was ended. 

"But soon they were again in the grave-garden, very 
early in the morning, before the red light of the winter 



THE MARIGOLD. 1 47 

-sunrise had faded in heaven, and while the glow of the new 
day was still sharp and pure upon the white crosslets that 
marked the resting-places of the dead. But the light upoii 
Hertha's pallid face was a light of soul, calmer and diviner 
in its bright shining than the inconstant radiance of the sun- 
beams ; a light of springing hope, and strength, and love, 
which should not fail nor perish for evermore. 

"She knelt beside the grave of the artisan-soldier, and 
her meek jasper eyes dwelt intently upon the stone cross 
which was set there, with this inscription graven on its 
base : — 

"'Of your charity pray for the soul 

OF 

Hermann Frohsinn. 

Arise, shine, for thy light is come ; 

And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee !' 

" And she wept as she read ; then lifting her gaze to 
the watchful face of her friend, repeated aloud, in solemn 
musing tones, that brief exhortation, which of all the little 
philosopher's words had most deeply impressed itself upon 
Hertha's sorrowing heart ; " Rise with him, through sphere 
after sphere!* And after a little pause, she added, laying 
her hand upon the cross at the grave-head, — as of old the 
Crusaders, when they made a solemn vow to God, laid their 
hands on the crosses of their sword-hilts : — 

"* Marie, I am going to do that. I am going to use my 
adversity as I never thought of using my happiness. My 
mind is made up to leave the village to-morrow morning, 
and to go to nurse the wounded soldiers in the towns and 
hamlets wherever the surgeons will let me go, and wherever 
i can be of use. Many women have gone already to this 
good work, and I have no home duties that need keep me 
here. It will comfort and strengthen me to know that I 
am treading in the footsteps of Hermann, following where 
he has been before me, and doing perhaps, for his very 
comrades, what strangers did for him. And if, among the 
sick or dying whom I tend, any poor fellow should speak 
to me of a dear wife or sweetheart waiting for him at home, 
I shall know what to say to such an one out of the depths 
of my own torn heart, — I shall understand his grief by means 
of mine, and be able to give him, not the barren comfort 
and surface smile of common nursing cheer, but the meed 
of a living and perfect sympathy.' 

"The light of that new day-spring grew brighter in her 
crystalline eyes as she ceased, and Marie looking upon her, 

L 2 



148 THE MARIGOLD. 

and 'seeing her face as the face of an angel of God/ re- 
turned no answer in words, but yielded only with silent 
tears the benediction of her pure and simple heart 

" And again Hertha spoke ; while the fresh morning air, 
floating hither and thither over the grzwe mounds, bore to 
her lips the subtle balm of my spirit, and laid upon her 
brow with invisible lingering hand the strength-giving beni* 
son of the Lord. 

"'There is a new world opening to me/ said the sweet 
rapt voice, 'and new thoughts are awakeni^d within ma 
It is borne in upon my heart for the first time with real 
conviction, that Hermann is not dead. That I have not 
indeed lost all. It is something to feel that, instead of 
merely saying it, and hearing it said. I see now that I 
must not lose a day in idle sorrow, but that where I can, 
I must help others, love them, and thank God I have seen 
upon earth such a heart as his, — have known, have loved, 
and have lost it. For not even heaven itself is able to take 
from me the love with which I have loved ; my soul will 
be richer thereby through all eternity*. Sister Marie, have 
you also felt this truth ?' 

"'Dear Hertha,' cried the orphan, weeping, 'your nature 
is nobler than mine, and your love was a stronger and 
a loftier love than that which fell to my share. Last year, 
you know, you told me so yourself. And because you 
loved with that mightiest love of all, therefore your dis- 
cernment now is clearer than mine, and the grace your 
sorrow brings you is higher and more perfect. To have 
loved as you have loved, is to know love for ever face to 
face, to be able for ever to love all beauties of nature and 
of mind, — all truth of heart, all trees, flowers, skies, hopes 
and good beliefs, all dear decays, all trusts in heaven, all 
capabilities of loving men « !' 

" * And are these too, Marie, among the teachings of your 
darling Gold-Blumef* 

"'Indeed I believe they are,' whispered the little maid 
timidly, leaning her brown head upon Hertha's bosom; 
•for I have often marked how the marigold, though it is 
the flower of sorrow and loss, yet bears the image and 
colour of the sun, and itself resembles a tiny luminary 
upon earth, abiding and perennial as the great Giver of 
light in heaven, whom it ever adores and imitates. And 
so also we, even though it be winter with us, and our joys 
and our loves lie buried beneath our feet, may yet, like the 
sun, give forth to others our sweetness and our strength, to 
gladden colder hearts with deeds of charity and words of help. 



4 « 



Recreations of Recluse." * Leigh HnnU 



THE MARIGOLD. I49 

Even as you, dear Hertha, are about to do for the wounded 
soldiers of Fatherland !' 

" The answer came with infinite tenderness : 
"'And as you, dear Marie, did first for me, when Herr- 
mann died. From you I learned this lesson of human 

sympathy !' 

«««««««« 

" The grey keen lines of breaking daylight were low in the 
bleak east, when Hertha came again, to take her farewell 
of Hermann's grave. Marie was not with her, for doubtless 
the instinct of the woman-child withheld her from intruding 
even her gentle presence upon such a sacred leave-taking 
as this. Hertha knelt alone by the burial -cross of her 
beloved ; her clasped hands resting on the white stone, and 
her face bowed down upon them, — the face that had grown 
so subdued and solemn in its pathetic beauty. No sound of 
sigh or moan escaped her hidden lips, no passionate sobs 
disturbed the faithful heart; but I knew that the farewell 
prayer she prayed, and the farewell intercourse of soul with 
soul, were a holier oblation and a truer communion for the 
consecration of that sacramental silence. Then she rose, and 
mounting a little green knoll beneath the aspen trees, waved 
her * good-bye ' with a kerchief to some anxious watcher, who 
waited at a distance for the parting signal ; and so, with the 
dawn upon her face, she went her way. 

"Winter wore itself out loitering and reluctantly into 
a cold and peevish spring. April gave place to May, and 
summer began with tardy fingers to colour the folded buds 
of the rose-bushes, and to sow the meadow-grass with silver 
dew and daffodils of gold. After a while, I too unfold my 
new-year's vesture, and all around me tiny green heads force 
their way through the damp mould wherein my seeds have 
lain throughout the colder months in darkness and seclusion, 
and ascend to the surface of the earth, thirsting to behold 
with their yellow eyes the light of day, and with me to 
receive into their hearts the low-breathed messages of God's 
evangelist, — the Wind. 

'* The campaign is over, and I hear it whispered among 
the market gossips, that very soon Hertha will be with them 
again ; and they mention her name with reverent love, for 
she has been good to those of their sons and brothers, whom, 
like Hermann, the summons of the country has made soldiers 
and heroes, — not infrequently also, victims. For of late 
many a poor fellow has been brought home to the village 
dying or dead ; and the graves are close and numerous 
under the waving lindens ; so that here and there the rose- 
bushes have been forced to yield before the sexton's spade ; 
and on moonless nights the villagers shrink from crossing 



150 THE MARIGOLD; 

the Friedhof, because the death-h'ghts ' upon' the new-made 
mounds are so bright and so frequent. 

" Then, towards the close of June, Hertha returns. Again 
I see her in the cemetery, with the same calm face that since 
I saw it last has beamed sweet consolation uix>n a hundred 
dimmed eyes and stricken hearts, a face softened and made 
solemn by the double beauty of understanding and sympathy. 

" For she has been in many battle-fields, and has witnessed 
many a strange and terrible tragedy of wholesale death ; she 
has seen the green slopes of Alsace and Lorraine strewn 
with the writhing forms of dying men ; she has found in the 
stiff grasp of more than one poor boy some unfinished letter 
traced in pencil with unsteady fingers to the * Hebe Mutter/ 
or the * Kleine Triidchen ' at home, — pathetic little mes- 
sages of only two lines, perhaps, — for then the palsied nerves 
of the writer had failed, and his dead hand had fallen heavily 
upon the torn morsel of paper. 

" And Hertha has knelt beside many a wounded veteran, 
friend or foe, and heard him murmur huskily of Vaterland, 
or of the Emperor, while the slow pulses of his great brave 
heart beat — beat — beat the continued rattaplan of war for 
the country or the name that he most loved. And she has 
bent her pale lips to his ear, and whispered gently that glory 
and honour cannot always last », that war and war's renown 
must pass away, and Ipve alone endure. i 

" And here too is Marie — Marie, childlike in form as ever, 
but careworn and desolate no longer ; for there stands beside 
her a tall fair youth with beaming eyes that dwell upon her 
fondly, — a youth for whom all the village has a word of re- 
spectful praise and hearty affection ; for is he not the pas- 
tor's nephew, just returned from a brilliant college career at 
Lrcipsig? And all the maids and matrons whisper saga- 
ciously that it is at the feet of little Marie his academic 
laurels of erudition and honour will ere long be laid. 

"The sexton is busy digging under the shade of the 
shivering aspen boughs, for to-morrow another corpse will 
be borne to its long home, — the corpse of one whom Hertha 
has nursed, the last martyr among the village patriots* In 

' Death-light or ghost-light ; — a luminous vai>our caused by the decomposition 
of the human gases, which vaix)ur is distinguishable on dark nights above new- 
made graves. In England it is called the corpse-lighL 

f " Quand un ancien regarde 
£n pleurant sa cocaxde, 
Au grand nom de TEmpereur 
Quand trop fort b&t son coeur ; 
Doucement je m'avance 
Et je lui dis, — silence, 
I^ gloire et les amours 
Ne durent pas toujours !" — La CanthiUre^ 



THE MARIGOLD. 




" B*rtlui hai kntlt 



THE MARIGOLD. I5I 

the midst of his labour the old delver pauses, wipes his 
heated visage, and looks appealingly at the little French 
maiden. 

" ' Fraulein Marie/ says he in gruff guttural German, 'your 
marigold plant is in the way here ! I shall have to dig it up. 
You see there's no room now that the ground's so full of 
graves on this side, and we are a bit pressed for space. *Tis 
a favourite corner, Fraulein, you know, under these trees 
along by the rose-bushes. Folks will be buried here !' 

"And down goes the spade into the turf with a terrible 
thrust that is my death-blow. The iron cuts my stalks in 
twain, cleaving in a moment the tendrils of my infant roots, 
and I am lifted with a jerk from the severed fibres, and 
thrown upon a bank beneath the aspens, amid a heap of torn 
squitch-grass, and mould, and pebbles, and twisting centi- 
pedes. As I lie there, dying under the fierce glare of the 
midsummer sun, Marie's gentle face bends over me, and her 
small hand breaks from its stalk the most beautiful of my 
tawny blooms. 

" * Ah,' sighs she regretfully, * I am sorry to see thee wither 
thus, my dear Souci I Thou hast soothed and strengthened 
me in many of my lonely, sorrowful hours !' 

"The tall youth beside her stoops and kisses her soft 
forehead. 

" Those hours are past for ever now, he tells her fondly ; 
he will never let her be sad or lonely any more. In the 
future they two will be all to one another, always together, 
always glad-hearted ! 

" She does not answer him, but turns her brightened face 
timidly upon Hertha. 

" * Dear sister,' she murmurs, caressing the thin white hand, 
upon which still gleams the gold betrothal ring of former 
times, — * indeed I feel almost guilty to be so happy and so 
blest, when thou art alone, and hast lost all !' 

" The pallid widow's face lightens with a smile of unutter- 
able trust, the sweet solemn voice thrills with passionate love. 

" ' Not lost,' she answers, * Oh not lost ! Mine for evermore ! 
Hermann has become to me part of the universe ; his spirit 
speaks to me in the flowers, surrounds me in the air, and 
looks upon me from the stars; and I am never desolate, 
since earth and heaven alike are filled with the presence of 
my beloved. And with him I rise ! Who therefore can par- 
take in thy joy, Marie, more truly than I, who have suffered 
with thee ? For I, too, have loved and have been happy !' 

" She stoops, and taking from Marie's outstretched hand 
the flower of the marigold plant, fastens it in the folds of her 
snowy neckerchief, to be treasured side by side with a little 
silver crucifix, significant and familiar memorial of One ' Who 



152 THE MARIGOLD. 

learned upon earth to be touched with the feeling of mortal 
infirmities/ because He likewise was ' made perfect through 
suffering.' 

** And upon that true and maiden bosom the last blossom 
of the Gold'blume died." 

«««««««« 

There the story ended. 

*' Then," said I aloud, " I suppose Hertha became a reli- 
gieuse, and it was she whose sweet calm face I saw in the 
diapel to»day !" 

The sound of my own voice awoke me. The rainbow had 
vanished, the sun had set, my beautiful phantom was no 
longer before me, and the whole room was darkened by the 
drowsy shadows of fast-approaching night 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 



A STORY OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY. 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

A STORY OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY. 




CHAPTER I. 

" IN THE AGE OF ARf." 

|HE city of Florence, during the palmy days of Cosma 
de Medici, was a very Arcady of poets, painters, and 
musicians. Cosmo was one of the richest and most 
princely dilettanti of the fifteenth century, whose ardent love 
of learning, munificent liberality, and splendid administra-*^ 
tion of the immense power he possessed in Florence, induced 
his fellow-citizens to honour him with the title of " Pater 
Patriae;" a designation, however, that hardly proved itself 
appropriate in after years, since the influence of the Medici 
certainly derogated with time from the liberty of the Floren-* 
tine republicans. Cosmo, like all the great men of his ro- 
mantic age, was doomed to earn his dignity at the cost of 
severe misfortune ; for he had a gruesome rival in Rinaldo 
Albizzi,' then leading governor of Florence ; and the popular 
patron of the belles-lettres and beaux arts fell before the 
jealousy of the man in authority, at whose instigation he 
was cited by the Signoria, and exiled as an enemy to the 
state in the year 1433. 

But the chief of the House of Medici was too influential 
and revered a citizen to remain long in banishment; and 
after the lapse of only twelve months he was recalled by 
a new parliament, and Albizzi experienced in his turn how 
capricious are the fancies of small states, and how danger* 
ously changeful the fortunes of great men ; for the Floren- 
tine republic now turned the flowing tide of its varying wrath 
upon him, and sent him forth by a mandate of exile, to take 
refuge with Filippo-Maria, Duke of Milan. So much it ha^ 
been necessary to recount en parenthhse^ concerning the per- 
sonal history of Cosmo de Medici ; but little more remain^ 
to be added here on the subject, and it will suflice fojr the 
purposes of this romance, to predicate, before proceeding 
further on our way^ that after his recall . from exile, the 
princely merchant-scholar passed at Florence a life of unin« 
terrupted prosperity and continual munificence.. 



A 



IS6 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

His mansion was always filled with men of art and talent, 
who came thither from all parts of Europe to enjoy the 
generous hospitality and protection of this wealthy merchant, 
and to make famous for ever with immortal works of genius 
the fairest capital in all divine Italia. 

.Among the many illustrious strangers whom Cosmo thus 
attracted to the Palazzo Pitti were two artists, named re- 
spectively, Domenico Veneziano, and Andrea del Castagno. 

Domenico, as his surname indicates, was by birth a Vene- 
tian, and his master had been the famous Antonello of Mes- 
sina, in whose studio this illustrious pupil acquired the art of 
oil-painting, — a far rarer accomplishment in those days than it 
has since become. Veneziano's skill in this particular branch 
of art became so famous throughout Perugia and other parts 
of Italy, that it was not long before an invitation from 
Florence summoned him to honour that resort of genius with 
his presence, in order to design and promote the decoration 
of a chapel in the Santa Maria Nuova. It was arranged that 
Veneziano should be assisted in this latter employment by 
Andrea del Castagno, a native of Mugello, and a man of such 
singularly violent temperament and vicious career, that he 
earned for himself, even in the turbulent days of the fifteenth 
century, the unenviable sobriquet of " The Infamous." Alas 
that any of those on whom God bestows His choicest bless- 
ings of creative power and beautiful thought, should ever 
forget the goodness of the Giver in the pride of possessing 
the gift, and lose in the indulgence of that unworthy senti- 
ment the true glory of the artist ! 

Domenico and Andrea were almost of an age ; the former 
was bom in the year 1406, the latter in 1409 ; but an ill-spent 
youth, and the tempests of a passionate disposition, had so 
worn and ravaged the face of Castagno, that one would have 
taken him for the elder by many long years. They seemed 
a strange, incongruous pair, these two men, as they walked 
together through the streets of Florence, or pursued their 
mutual labour in the chapel of Santa Maria ; and it was not 
long before the Florentine juveniles learnt to watch for their 
passing at the corners of the public building or the mouths of 
the courts, and cry all^orically, — for boys have been the 
same in all generations, everywhere, — "Here they come! 
Michael and Lucifer 1 Oh, how amiable they are together !" 

But Domenico was not a painter only. He excelled in 
a sweeter art than that of handling the brush, for he was 
also a practised musician, and could play so marvellously 
on the lute, that those who heard his exquisite minstrelsy 
often wept while they listened to it, for pure delight and 
tender emotion. 

There must be a soul in the bosom of a man before he can 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 1 57 

produce perfect music. One may design, or group, or lay on 
colour, or illuminate, or chisel, or even write good verses per- 
haps, by dint of mere cultivated trick and conventional dis- 
criminating taste ; but to be a musician, one needs a touch of 
something far higher than mere educational refinement ; one 
needs to have grasped in some measure the appreciation of 
the Divine. 

I do not know that I am quite prepared to assert with 
Mr. Ruskin, that a great artist must of necessity be a good 
man; but if there be truth in that opinion, it is certainly 
truer of the musician than of any other votary whom the 
celestial Nine delight to honour. To be a sculptor, or a poet, 
or a painter, one must doubtless be a man of power, and such 
was Castagno ; but to conceive and execute sweet melody of 
sound, one must be oneself in harmony with the heavenly 
choir, and the gamut of one's thoughts and desires must be 
turned to the great Keynote of the universe. And Domenico 
Veneziano was a man of such lofty parts and noble compre- 
hension. He had learnt to do all that he did for the sake of 
a higher Name than his own, and his work became to him 
accordingly, the labour of no mere profession, but the sweet 
duty of an accepted vocation, the service of a willing husband- 
man in the g^eat vineyard of an eternally- bountiful Master. 
It is, I believe, because this religious spirit is lacking so much 
and so palpably among the artists of our later times, that Art 
has ceased to be the noble and sacred thing it once was, and 
that there has grown up in some communities distinguished 
for their piety, an instinctive distrust of those whose occupa- 
tion it is to embody and to realize beautiful thoughts and 
ideal forms of loveliness. It is too much the custom in these 
money-getting days to make a business of Art ; and perhaps 
it is for this one reason alone, — so potential a reason is it, and 
so disastrous and universal its consequences, — that we cannot 
claim to have one true and great genius alive now in the 
world. For our world has become long since a world of Com- 
merce and of Coinage ; and Art, and the love of Art, are an 
event and a passion of t}ie golden past« 



CHAPTER II. 

'•CHILDREN OF THE CHURCH." 

The picturesque hill of Fiesole which girds the north- 
eastern quarter of Florence, and which is now covered with 
gardens and country houses, possessed, in the days of which 
we speak, a far more rural and uncultivated appearance. 
The Mugnone river, a tiny tributary of the Arno, slender and 



158 THE PAINTER OF VENICE.' 

bright as a thread of* burnished silver, wound its fantastic 
way along the base of the hill beneath natural canopies of 
bending larch and tremulous aspens, round a hundred curves 
of moss-mingled, weedy turf-border, over pebbled shallows 
and whispering rushes, — the swiftest, clearest, shadiest of run- 
lets^ that ever delighted painter's eye, or filled the heart of 
a poet with peaceful rapture. 

One lovely, cloudless evening in the spring of the year 
1462, two figures, descending the hill of Fiesole, not long 
after the conclusion of vespers, came slowly towards the 
sloping banks of the stream, and paused there, standing 
together beside the darkening waters. These two were a 
Dominican monk of venerable years, and a lad in the garb 
of a scholar, the latter so singularly beautiful in feature and 
appearance, that, even at that romantic period, when pic- 
turesque costume and artistic modes of coiffure were doing 
their utmost for the people of Southern Europe, the rare 
graces of this young Florentine were wont to attract the 
gaze of casual passers in the streets, and to elicit from 
strangers words of keen surprise and warm admiration. 

Era Giuseppe was affectionately attached to this beautiful 
boy, over whom the old man exercised a specially endearing 
influence, for a familiar tie, not only of spiritual affinity, but 
of earthly relationship, existed between him and his pupil. 
The beautiful Angelo was the only son of Era Giuseppe's 
dead sister, Teresa, whom, during her short life, he had loved 
with all the strength of a passionate and tender Italian heart, 
and whose dear memory he now cherished and revered as 
that of a triumphant saint in the bosom of God. Teresa had 
died in giving birth to twins, and Ilario, her husband, perished 
at sea ten years afterwards, while returning from a cruise to 
some distant port, whither he had been to seek for employ- 
ment ; for Ilario had never had any great share in the 
world's good things. Era Giuseppe was thus left the only 
living relative of these two orphaned children, and from that 
day the aged monk devoted himself with all the pious enei^ 
of his affectionate disposition, to alleviate as much as was 
possible their poverty and desolation. But little Teresa 
inherited her mother's fragility of health, and she and her 
twin brother had not been two years alone in the world 
before the bright tint began to fade from her delicate face, 
and there came a certain new light into her large brown eyes 
which the good ecclesiastic was grieved to see ; for like most 
of the cloistered religious at that period, Era Giuseppe was 
a physician as well as a savant. And when the third winter 
of her orphanage had come, Teresa was no longer able to 
trip by Angelo's side through the crisp, bleak air of the 
dawn to attend the early matin service as she had been wont 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE:: l^gt 

to do, but was forced to liie still in her little wooden bedstead," 
until the good old uncle-priest came to say a prayer with her 
there, and to lift her up in his strong arms and carry her 
to and fro before the cottage, where the noonday sun fell 
warmest and brightest between the sheltering lattice-crosses 
of the green verandah. 

There was a kind neighbour of Teresa's, a widow named 
Ursula, who used to sit by the poor girl's couch during the 
afternoon, while Angelo was studying at the convent, and 
she taught Ker patient little protegee to weave and embroider, 
and to make lace ; so that Teresa could lie and work with 
her needle while Ursula sang beside her, or told her wonderful 
legends about the saints, or the yet more mythical mountain 
gnomes and water Undines. Ursula had an inexhaustible 
store of such tales as these, and Teresa was never weary 
of hearing them, nor of listening to the old woman's soft, 
melodious contralto hymning the "Ave" when the chapel 
bells rang for the Angelus^ or chanting tender litanies to the 
monotonous music of the murmuring spindle-wheel. 

We cold-blooded, dull-hearted denizens of unspeculative 
England, can. but dimly comprehend the deep mysterious 
meanings that lie hidden beneath the simple wording of those 
Italian and German fairy stories, — we read, and smile, or 
even weep perhaps, over the poetic visions pictured in their 
fascinating pages, but we miss the philosophic thought, the 
daring guesses at truth, the wonderful power of idea that 
underlies their baby-language, and points every adventure 
and utterance of their imaginary heroes and heroines. But 
farther south, where a brighter sun enlightens the eyes and 
souls of men by day, and where the skies are so pure and 
clear that at night one can see the stars down to the very 
edge of earth, and water all round the horizon, — there, too, 
the hearts and understandings of the people lie nearer their 
lips and ears than they do among themselves, so that they 
speak in allegory of things we do not dare to dream about, 
and hear with reverend looks and grave countenance certain 
histories and fables that we are wont to profane with jests. 



CHAPTER III. 

"THE SWEET POWER OF MUSIC" 

Fra Giuseppe and Angelo stood some time talking that 
evening beside the runlet, for the quietude and serenity of 
the beautiful scene possessed a power of deep enchantment 
for both of them, because to the hearts of both Nature spoke 



l60 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

intelligibly, as she ever speaks to those who keep their eyes 
single and their consciences unclouded. 

"Uncle," said Angelo, stretching out his hands towards 
the purpling landscape before him, "how is it that, when 
I look upon all this beauty in such calm moments as these, 
I feel that it is not enough to look at it ? I seem to want 
some other mode of apprdiending and enjoying it, — some 
other sense than mere sight, or even touch. I want to lose 
myself in it, to embrace it, to drink it, to take it all to 
my soul, and become identified with its perfect peace and 
loveliness !" 

Fra Giuseppe's dark eyes kindled, and he looked earnestly 
into the boy's wistful face as he answered him : " My child, 
I think that the feeling and the longing of which thou speak- 
est are the motions within thee of tluit fuller life thou wilt 
one day enter upon. When thou wert a little child, unable 
to utter distinctly any single word, thou didst often long to 
express thy desires and thy thoughts, and wert dimly sensible 
that there existed some method, which thou wert incapable 
to employ, of communicating thine heart to others, and of 
giving form and definition to thine emotions. What are all 
men now in this lower world but little children ? The want 
thou feelest, the sense thou lackest, shall be supplied to thee 
hereafter, when thou hast learnt more and art grown older. 
But that will not be until thou hast gone home to thy Father. 
Thou must first learn here that thou hast indeed something 
to say, and feel thou longest to say it, before the power of 
expression can become thine. For I believe that thou wilt 
only know what new sense it is thou so vainly desirest, when 
thou shalt have put aside the senses of thy body, and art 
become a pure spirit full of eyes, in the perfect light of God. 
For then, dear child, thou wilt understand Divinity, and the 
wisdom of the Father shall be revealed to thee." 

" Thou thinkest then, uncle, that the sense I feel myself 
to lack is nothing less than a celestial faculty, — that per- 
ception which, perhaps, in angels corresponds to our faculty 
of vision?" 

" I believe, my child, that it is indeed sa That vague 
desire that fills thine heart in beholding the beauty of the 
natural earth and sea, is a yearning to drink of the eternal 
waters of Wisdom, a longing for perfect rest upon the bosom 
of divine Love. And although fliy judgment discemeth not 
that such is the real meaning of thine unsatisfied aspiration, 
yet doth thy spirit apprehend the truth, else how do the 
tears rise to thine eyes, and how comes it that thou art 
conscious of some feeling akin to restlessness and pain, even 
when thine eye and ear are most delighted with the admi- 
rable works of God's creation ? It is because thy soul, by 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. l6£ 

means of that earthly loveliness, is put in remembrance of 
her eternal rest, and yearns to mingle herself in the ineffable 
brightness of the supernal fields, and to repose in the full 
undying refulgence of the changeless glory of heaven." 

A sound of approaching footsteps arrested Fra Giuseppe's 
discourse, and he and Angelo involuntarily turned to look 
at the intruder upon their solitude. He was a man of middle 
age and dignified appearance, closely habited in a plain 
brown mantle, of which the peaked hood partly concealed 
his face ; but even so, it was easy to perceive that his features 
were of no ordinary type, and the grave, large eyes which 
met Angelo*s inquiring glance, were bright with a peculiar 
light, like the clear shining of an inward flame. 

"Salve tibi!" said the Dominican, saluting the stranger 
genially. "This is a heavenly evening, friend, is it not.^ 
One almost expects at such times as this to meet some of 
the angels walking on earth in the cool of the day, as of old 
they were wont to do in Paradise." 

"Salve, father!" returned the strange man in a singularly 
sweet voice, and, as he spoke, he fixed his expressive eyes on 
Angelo's beautiful face. " If my vision deceives me not, there 
is indeed at least one angel upon earth to-night" 

Fra Giuseppe followed the direction of the speaker's gaze, 
and smiled. 

"Well said," returned he, "you guess cleverly, for such 
indeed is my nephew called. Angelo hath for his patrons 
the whole company of the heavenly host." 

" You are a Dominican I perceive by your habit, father," 
observed the stranger, after a moment's pause. " Is this lad 
then your neophyte ?" 

" Not exactly," replied the monk, affectionately laying his 
brown hand upon the boy's glossy curls. " He is an orphan, 
but God hath given him a sister to live for, hitherto. Angelo 
is my nephew, and my pupil. The rest must be as our dear 
Lord pleases." 

Fra Giuseppe's rich voice dropped a little into something 
like sadness as he spoke of Teresa, and he lingered musingly 
over the last words of his sentence. Perhaps the question of 
his interlocutor had evoked a new desire in his pious mind. 
But the mantled stranger turned his bright eyes again upon 
Angelo. 

" I hope, my child," said he gently, " that you learn dili- 
gently and are studious, since you have so kind an instructor 
to teach you ?" 

A sudden expression of sadness and discontent gathered 
like a dark shadow upon the boy's fair countenance as these 
words were uttered, and Fra Giuseppe hastened to anticipate 
his nephew's answer. 

M 



l62 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

" Angelo is a good child," he said quickly, "and does his 
best. Not the cleverest nor the most gifted of us can do any 
more." 

A look of intelligence responded in the glance with which 
the strange man met the Dominican's kindly eyes, and he 
suddenly drew a lute from beneath the folds of his heavy 
brown mantle. 

*'Do you love music ?" he asked Angelo, abruptly. 

The bpy's eyes glittered brilliantly, a rosy flush overspread 
his fair face, and rose like a bright light to his forehead. 

" Oh, sir, with all my whole heart" 

Fra Giuseppe touched the strange man softly on the 
shoulder. 

" You have made one more happy guess, my son. Music 
is Angelo's chief delight He appears like a transfigured crea- 
ture when he sings in our chapel." 

The man in the brown mantle made no reply in words. 
He seated himself upon the stem of a fallen tree, around 
which the soft climbing mosses and wild creepers had woven 
their delicate growths, and began to tune his lute. Presently 
he played a few faint chords in a minor key, melting and 
blending one into the other like a low sea-wind on a summer 
night, and while yet the tender tones of that brief prelude 
vibrated along the silver strings, he lifted his sweet voice, — 
which was tenor in its compass, a tone less rare among the 
Italians than with us, — and sang an exquisitely melodious 
hymn to the Virgin. The thrilling, strong, pathetic music of 
his wonderful intonation rolled out sublimely on the still 
night air, and every note stirred the souls of his enraptured 
listeners as might an audible flame of celestial Are, so that 
they stood gazing upon the brown, wrinkled face of their 
unknown entertainer, as though it had been the luminous 
countenance of the seraphic minstrel Israefel. And still he 
sang, while the waters rippled their drowsy monotonous 
treble beside him, and the sleepy breeze of the evening 
murmured its tender susurrations in and out of the drooping 
osiers and 'arbutus, and the waving reeds chattered and 
soughed in the dark shallows. And still he sang, now lifting 
his strong sweet voice in passionate appeals of prayerful 
adoration, now sinking its tender notes in dropping cadences 
of reverential pathos, till all the pure bright air of the open 
night was laden with the burden of the lovely harmony, and 
the far-off" stars, with their golden-clear eyes, seemed standing 
still to watch and listen at the thousand doors of their purple 
pavilion. 

But at length, when the last Amen was uttered, and the 
soft harmony of the lute-strings had ceased to thrill the soli- 
tude, Angelo moved slowly from his place, and dropping 



THE PAINTER OF VENICB. 




THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 1 63 

down besicle the stranger, where he' yet sat upon the fallen 
tree, raised his great liquescent eyes to the dark corrugated 
face, and asked earnestly : " Are you not Messer Domenico 
Veneziano, the foreign painter, who has come hither lately to 
paint the chapel of Santa Maria Nuova?" 

The strange man smiled benevolently. 

" Yes, my dear child, that is my name. How came you by 
it so correctly?" 

" I heard you playing," answered Angelo rapidly, '* at the 
open casement of your chamber in the Nuova-square, one 
evening as I was going home from the monastery. And 
I waited in the street to listen to you, until a man in 
a yellow vest, who chanced to be standing in the yard be- 
neath your window saw me lingering, and bade me go about 
my business. And he said that Messer Domenico did not 
play to me, but to himself ; and that nothing was more ill- 
mannered than to stand about at night under people's bal- 
conies, as though I were moon-struck, or wanted to ask alms, 
or worse. So you see, he let me know your name, though 
he did send me away !" 

Messer Domenico moved his bright eyes from Angelo's 
face, and swept the lute-strings for a minute without speak- 
ing, as though thereby to tune so|^e jarring note in the 
gamut of his own emotions. Then he said, looking kindly 
upon Angelo, "/ would not have sent you away, my child, 
had I known you were there. But I daresay, if you choose, 
and your uncle permit it, that you will hear me play again 
very often." 

"Thanks, Messer Domenico," said the Frate, once more 
anticipating his nephew's reply, with a world of gratitude 
and admiration in his genial eyes; "such music as yours 
will teach Angelo better and nobler things than all the lore 
I am able to impart. Music, I take it, is the language 
wherein Nature, who is God's schoolmistress, instructs His 
children. Angelo, too, has a passionate love for beauty, 
whether of sight or of sound." 

**So have I," answered the artist, letting his glance rest 
expressively upon the boy's uplifted face. " Come, father, 
with your consent, we will make a bargain ! Let your 
nephew spend two or three hours a-day with me, as my 
model, at Santa Maria, and in return I will give him a rea- 
sonable salary, and teach him to play and sing. I daresay 
he will find time for studying with you as well, and the 
thought of the lute will help him on with his more tedious 
labours. We can set the primer and the Latin exercises, 
or what not, to music you know." 

Again the benevolent smile irradiated the bronzed features 

M 2 



1 64 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

of Messer Domenico as he made this proposition, and Angelo, 
hastily gathering consent and approval in Fra Giuseppe's re- 
sponsive gaze, burst into a gleeful acceptance. 

*' Oh, Messer Domenico ! how good you are ! how happy 
you make me ! But if I can really be of any use to you, and 
you will really teach me to play the lute, that is more than 
enough for me I a g^eat deal more I I could not endure to 
take money from you !" 

"Angelo is quite right, my son," interpolated the monk, 
gravely seconding his nephew's eager disclaimer. " I do not 
want him to begin to love coin. All that he and his sister 
need, thank the dear Lord, His Church is able to supply ; 
and by-and-by Angelo will be apprenticed to some trade, 
and will learn to get his living industriously. Just now he 
is learning other things." 

" You are very right, father," answered the painter, empha- 
tically : " I perceive that Angelo has indeed a wise preceptor. 
I am a stranger in this city, as you have heard him say, and 
I know none of the faces I meet every day in the squares, 
but may I hope that I have found to-night a friend in you ?" 

Fra Giuseppe warmly grasped the hand that was out- 
stretched to meet his own. "With all my heart," said he, 
in his most cordial tones. "But the hour is growing late, 
and before I return to the cloisters I must take Angelo 
home, and see little Teresa who lies there ill. Shall I bring 
your new model to the chapel of Santa Maria to-morrow ?" 

" If you will do that, father, to-morrow will be a happy day 
for me, and I shall be impatient till you arrive. Noon is the 
best time, so far as I am concerned, for the light suits my 
painting best then. Is that hour convenient to you ?" 

"It will do excellently well," responded the monk. "And 
now we must bid you farewell, Angelo and I." 

" Stay, father !" cried Messer Domenico, "I am returning to 
the city also. May we not walk together ?" 

" By all means, my son," returned the sociable Frate : " our 
way lies through the square of the Santa Maria Nuova, and 
we can enjoy your pleasant converse therefore, until you 
leave us at your own door. And I hope it will not be the 
only time we shall walk together." 

" I hope not indeed, father," said Messer Domenico earnestly, 
" by the grace of God." 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 165 

CHAPTER IV. 

THE MAN IN THE YELLOW VEST. 

Angelo, as Fra Giuseppe had hinted to Messer Domenico, 
was by no means a clever boy. Nature, who had not spared 
her bounty in adorning his person, had somewhat parsimo- 
niously neglected the faculties of his mind, and had ap- 
parently thrust him into the world unendowed with most 
of those abilities which compensated his playmates for their 
various faults of physique. Angelo's face and form were 
perfect, but in mental capacity he was indubitably inferior 
to other children of his age. He had neither skill to learn 
well, nor memory to retain the little he learnt, although the 
good father was a patient instructor, and his nephew, in all 
honesty, worked at his best, poor as his achievements proved 
to be. But, as though to amend these intellectual blemishes, 
the heart of Angelo was filled to overflowing with the love 
of beauty and goodness ; the open land, the clear broad 
skies, the wild melodies of the birds, and the breath of the 
forest flowers, — these contained for him as much and more 
than all the musty tomes of the convent library did for the 
erudite scholars of the cloister ; and Fra Giuseppe often 
wondered whether indeed the Word of God, which is plainest 
written in the works of God, were not after all more easily 
discernible to the eyes and ears of this ignorant child than 
it was ever likely to become to the most promising of his 
fellow-pupils. 

" For," mused the good father, " the dear Lord hath seen 
fit to hide His secrets from the wise and prudent, and to 
reveal them unto babes," 

There was among the boys who came to be taught at the 
monastery a certain lad of Angelo's age, named Niccol6, 
as remarkable for wit, quickness of apprehension, and reten- 
tive power, as Angelo was for physical beauty. 

Between these two children there was some bitterness of 
heart, for Niccol6, being himself cast in a very ordinary 
mould, envied Angelo his fair face, and Angelo, in his turn, 
chafed at the superior capacities of his school comrade, and 
often resented very warmly the gibes, reproaches, and per- 
sonal allusions to dulness, in which Niccol6, during his fits 
of jealous malignity, was wont to seek consolation for his 
own lack of beauty. 

Fra Giuseppe noted with sincere sorrow this boyish ani- 
mosity, which grieved his genial nature no less than it out- 
raged his ideas of Christian brotherhood, and he strove 
earnestly and continually to establish in place of so much 
uncharitableness a friendly rivalry and emulative alliancq; 



1 66 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

but he strove in vain, for Niccol6 was sullen, and Angelo 
discontented, and ndther would be first to negociate a peace. 
Things were in this unhappy state when Messer Domenico 
Veneziano dropped like a wandering star into the orbit of 
Angelo's daily career, and illumined its sombre routine with 
a newer and brighter element than had yet disturbed the 
monotony of the boy's orphanage, altering its whole com- 
plexion and prospects by a series of strangely monitory 
events. For, on the very occasion of Angelo's jfirst intro- 
duction to the chapel of Santa Maria Nuova, after Fra 
Giuseppe had taken his leave and returned to the monastery, 
— for he was not free to remain away with Angelo all the 
morning, — it happened that as the boy stood beside his 
new patron, watching the progress of the painting, a strange 
man entered the chapel, and pausing in the doorway, saluted 
Messer Domenico familiarly. 

"Thou hast a model, I perceive, Domenico! Verily, I 
congratulate thee ! Where didst thou find him ? What 
magnificent shades of hair! what colour! what undulating 
curves! So," said he, holding his head sideways and re- 
garding the boy as though he had been a statue or a picture, 
" it is really the face of a seraph ! Superb !" 

Angelo blushed hotly, as the strange man uttered these 
words. The tone of the voice was harsh and discordant, 
his manner was indescribably arrogant, and the young Flo- 
rentine was not accustomed to hear his charms appraised 
in a style only appropriate to criticism on the points of 
a horse. He felt instinctively that the new comer was a 
vulgarian, and he had besides an acute recollection of having 
heard the voice before, under circumstances which had not 
impressed him favourably. But when the stranger laid 
aside his outer mantle, and displayed beneath it a gay cos- 
tume of canary-coloured silk, Angelo recognised him in- 
stantly, and straightway registered a new dislike in the 
mental repository of his pet aversions ; for this disagreeable 
critic was none other than the man of the yellow vest, who 
had dismissed him from his chosen auditorium beneath 
Messer Domenico's window, upon the evening when he had 
first heard the music of his patron's wonderful lute. 

" This boy's name is Angelo," returned Messer Domenico, 
softly; "he is a pupil at the Dominican monastery of 
Fiesole, and I only met him yesterday for the first time. 
As you say, Andrea, I am very fortunate." 

"Now I look at him more closely," rejoined the other, 
scanning the boy's features with more familiarity than 
Angelo was able to relish, "I fancy he is not quite a 
stranger to me. I believe I saw him hanging about under 
your balcony, Domenico, one night not very long ago." 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 1 6/ 

"Yes," observed Angelo, quickly, with some resentful 
asperity in his tone; "and you told me to go about my 
business. I knew you directly by your yellow vest." 

To Angelo's great astonishment, Messer Domenico im- 
mediately put down his palette, and lifting his cloak from 
the place where he had laid it, deliberately drew out of his 
capacious pocket his favourite lute, and as he stood before 
his painting played a few soft harmonious chords, exactly 
as he had done on the previous evening, when Angelo had 
first related the incident of Castagno's interference. 

"Why do you do that, Messer Domenico.^" asked the 
boy, speedily forgetting his anger in his surprise. 

"I thought there was discord somewhere," answered the 
painter, putting the lute back in its place. 

Angelo understood the rebuke, and coloured deeply in 
silence ; but Castagno bit his nails and laughed in an in- 
solent manner, as if some ludicrous eccentricity had excited 
his contempt. Yet notwithstanding this ungracious be- 
haviour, Angelo noted with increasing bewilderment that 
Domenico and Castagno were apparently good friends, that 
they addressed one another in the language of intimacy, 
and that from time to time, as the business of decoration 
went on in the chapel, Veneziano left his own painting to 
help in the labours of his fellow-artist, and to admonish 
and encourage him, or even add a touch here and there to 
Castagno*s handiwork. But ever and anon when Messer 
Domenico made an effective stroke of the brush upon Cas- 
tagno's panel, or heightened a light, or deepened a shadow 
for him with peculiar skill, Angelo observed to his amaze- 
ment that although Andrea's words were expressive of gra- 
titude on such occasions, his black, deep eyes glowed the 
while with a fire of unmistakeable hatred ; and as the glitter 
of the noonday sun-beams caught the silver-mounted pencil 
he held in his right hand, Angelo almost fancied it a dagger, 
so spitefully he wielded it, and so evilly his dark countenance 
glowered above it at the friend who stood by his side assist- 
ing him. Angelo was greatly perplexed. Up at the convent 
among the Frati, he had never seen anything like this, and 
even Niccol6*s enmity, which was the fiercest and most de- 
termined Angelo had ever known, was perfectly candid and 
unconcealed. Niccol6 hated him, and said so without dis- 
guise, but the conduct of Castagno was inexplicable. Angelo 
was sure, from the glances which from time to time he cast 
upon Domenico, that he did not really feel obliged to him ; 
but why then did he pretend to be thankful and affectionate ? 
And did Messer Domenico believe his protestations ? 

All the time that the work of the two painters continued, 
the boy puzzled himself with this enigma, but the nature that 



1 68 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

was too simple and spiritual to comprehend worldly lore, 
failed also to penetrate the base motives of a lower soul, for 
Angelo had learnt his lessons from the Book of Nature, and 
there is no falsehood, no treachery, no deceit written there. 
He did not guess, poor inexperienced child, that the evil 
demon which fired the dangerous eyes and overshadowed the 
lean face of Andrea del Castagno, was that very sentiment 
which he and Niccol6 cherished towards each other, — only, 
grown to maturity. For Jealousy, though he may be the 
tiniest of imps at his birth, has always a fine constitution, 
and grows in time to be the cruellest and most powerful 
of giants. 



CHAPTER V. 

ON THE MERCATO VECCHIO. 

It was not long, of course, before the fact of Angelo's 
acquaintance with Messer Domenico Veneziano transpired in 
the monastery schoolroom, and in a correspondingly short 
period the nature of that acquaintance also revealed itself in 
the same academy of erudition. Such tidings were not 
calculated to improve the state of Niccol6*s mind in re- 
gard to his handsome rival, and it resulted that the jealous 
spirit which had so long and persistently held these two 
children apart, now gathered fresh fuel from Angelo's re- 
cently befallen fortune, and no opportunity for recrimination 
or taunt was suffered to pass unnoticed by the amiable 
Niccol6. For to the feelings of that young Haman it was 
simply intolerable that his juvenile Mordccai should be so 
far preferred before himself, as to be actually summoned on 
account of his superior charms to the studio of the first 
painter in Florence, and there become immortalized upon the 
walls of one of the most noteworthy chapels in Italy, while 
he, — the gifted, the clever, the accomplished Niccol6, — was 
treated as though he were only a unit among the common 
herd of ordinary youngsters, and passed in the streets without 
observation by scores of people, who would ere long assemble 
to gape at the painted likeness of the stupid Angelo, and 
cry, " Magnifico I Squisito /" 

So the battle between Niccol6 and Messer Domenico's 
model took fresh impetus accordingly, and raged with such 
open and continuous fury, that the whole monastery began 
to be disturbed by it. 

One day Messer Domenico, whose keen appreciation of 
beauty and artistic love of simple truth had already attached 
him sincerely to the spiritual, unsophisticated nephew of Fra 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 




THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 1 69 

Giuseppe, quitted the chapel -studio earlier than was his 
wont, and taking Angelo with him, threaded the shady 
narrow streets of the city, and emerged with his Tair young 
companion upon the wide piazza of the Mercato Vecchio. 
The hour of day, the bright weather, and the plenty of 
the season, which was festival-time into the bargain, con- 
tributed just then to render the Mercato one of the gayest 
and noisiest scenes in Florence. There was a never-ending 
Babel of voices, and an incessant stir and flutter, varied here 
and there by a shrill, pleasant jingle of bells upon the mule 
or cart of some newly-arrived or departing trader, or the 
stentorian cry of an itinerant pedlar vaunting his wares. 
Canopies of bright-coloured stuffs erected over the stalls, and 
supported by tall plane-withes, flashed in the warm sunshine 
like so many festive banners, and in conspicuous comers, gay 
knots of ribbon fastened to the tops of poles, or floating 
scarves of dyed silks and glittering filloselle, symbolized the 
nature of the trade that was carried on beneath their respec- 
tive auspices. 

Ever)rthing was sold in the Mercato Vecchio. Here a 
housewife might cater for the provisional necessities of a whole 
family as liberally as her purse would allow ; or a maiden 
might trick herself out for a festa in the bravest fashion ; 
or a juvenile fancier of the animated creation might be pro- 
vided to any extent with cats, monkeys, birds, or rabbits ; 
while those of the Florentine populace who were not disposed 
to be purchasers, might easily acquaint themselves, free of 
payment, with the latest, choicest, and most pungent bits of 
scandal extant for twenty miles round the neighbourhood. 

Messer Domenico led his little companion to a fruit-stall, 
temptingly piled with all manner of luscious edibles ; grapes, 
peaches, figs, melons, and citrons were ranged in profuse 
abundance upon the clean white linen which shrouded the 
wooden counter, and behind this fructiferous display stood 
the presiding goddess, an appropriately apple-cheeked ma- 
tron with long dark eyes like sloes, and tiny pouting lips 
that were ruddy as her own cherries. 

" Come, Angelo," said the kind artist, " I want you to tell 
me what Teresa would prefer among these fruits, and you 
shall take her home a basket-full this morning. See, shall 
we have some of those ripe nectarines ?" 

Angelo's eyes sparkled. 

" You are too good to me, Messer Domenico," he said ; 
" Teresa loves nectarines." 

"So!" quoth the benevolent artist with a smile. Then 
addressing the ruddy-faced contadina — ** We will take these, 
padrona, and some of the purple grapes yonder. They look 
good also — the figs in that corner, and those yellow-skinned 



I/O THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

apples. Ah, that makes a goodly pile I Can you lift tliem, 
Angelo?" 

As he put the question, Messer Domenico deposited a 
brimming sXvdiVf fanier in the hands of his protege, and was 
answered by a delighted look of grateful acquiescence, as the 
countrywoman gaily swept Veneziano's coins into her embroi- 
dered money-bag, and glanced round the market-place with 
her most fascinating smile, for some new customer. But Messer 
Domenico and his boy companion had scarcely quitted the 
stall, when there emet^ed from the busiest part of the piazza 
a little throng of Angelo's school-fellows, just released from 
the monastery, and intent as boys always are in their first 
moments of liberty upon amusing themselves with any piece 
of excitement that might offer. There was a general shout 
in their ranks as they caught sight of Angelo, and a voice he 
knew but too well, suddenly cried out, " Ecco ! Look, here's 
a sight indeed ! Only consider what a fine thing it must be 
to have no lessons to learn, and no work to do, and plenty of 
presents given to one, all because one happens to have a pair 
of lat^e eyes and a small mouth ! Here is the boy who was 
so stupid that the fathers had to give up teaching him, turned 
gentleman, and selling his face for figs ! Ohe, you little im- 
postor ! You are too much of a dolt to know anything about 
Absalom, but let me tell you he came to a bad end 1" 

With which angry denunciation, Niccol6 suddenly darted 
out from among the group of boys, and hurling himself im- 
petuously upon Angelo, seized him by the arm with so much 
roughness, that the basket of fruit which the latter was 
carrying was torn from hi? grasp by the shock, and fell to 
the ground, scattering its contents in every direction, and 
staining the grey stones of the piazza with the rich dye of 
the grape-juice. 

" There ! you pitiful sneak !" cried Niccol6, maddened with 
jealous wrath ; " let that teach you not to count too much on 
your good looks : pretty faces don't please everybody !" 

The whole scene had passed in such a moment that Messer 
Domenico, who had not yet quitted his proteg6, had had no 
time to prevent the catastrophe. But as soon as he heard 
the commotion, saw the nectarines and apples rolling, and 
perceived the nature of the disturbance, he stretched out his 
hand and caught the aggressor so firmly that, notwithstanding 
his most vigorous resistance, Niccol6 could not free himself 
from that resolute gripe. 

" Who are you }" asked Messer Domenico, quietly ; "what 
is the matter with you ?" 

" Ask /«>«,*' retorted Niccol6 fiercely, pointing to Angelo ; 
" he knows. Why doesn't he fight me, he hates me enough V 

The insinuation conveyed in the taunt, and the tone in 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 17I 

which it was uttered, were not lost upon the boy-spectators of 
the fray. Immediately they took up the war-note, and cried 
with one voice, " Oib6 ! Why doesn't he fight ? Coward T 

Until that instant Angelo had stood like a statue, pale and 
terrified into immobility by the sudden violence of Niccol6's 
onslaught ; for his perceptions were naturally dull, and he 
did not apprehend the situation of affairs at once, as an 
ordinary boy would have done. But at the sound of that 
cry the blood suddenly reddened the clear skin of his temples, 
his great eyes flashed with indignation, and he struck a wild 
blow at his antagonist, a blind unskilful blow, which Niccol6y. 
though still in the powerful clutch of Messer Domenico, 
easily parried. A general commotion ensued, and a vast 
deal of shouting, and many of the marketers, buyers and pur- 
veyors, left their business and ran excitedly to the centre of 
the tumult ; but in the midst of the crowd the figure of a tall 
man was seen approaching, and a harsh dissonant voice that 
made itself distinctly audible above the confusion, broke 
upon Angelo's recognizant ear. 

" What uproar is this ?*' cried the man of the yellow vest ; 
"who is that valiant hero there in the arms of the Signor 
Veneziano?" 

**Niccol6! N1CC0I6!" responded the chorus of that worthy's 
juvenile supporters ; " let them fight ! let them go !" 

Castagno forced his way through the motley assemblage of 
bystanders, and tapped Angelo's shoulder lightly with the tips 
of his lean olive fingers. 

"Why, my young Adonis," sneered he, in a tone of dis- 
agreeable banter, "have you been falling out with the god 
of war ? squabblii^ over Venus,— or, no ;" added he, looking 
down at the bruised nectarines and apples, " no, I should say 
— Pomona V* 

"I don't know anything about Adonis, or Venus, or Po- 
mona," responded Angelo, decidedly; "but Niccol6 pushed 
me and upset vay panier^ and spoilt my fruit, and they called 
me a coward, and I hit him." 

" Short epitome of the wars of the world ! The * Why and 
Because* of national disputes !" cried Castagno, airily. "Well, 
Niccol6, and why have you been assaulting our laconic friend 
here .?" 

"Because I hate him," replied Niccol6, in defiant tones; 
" and he hates me, too." 

"The very best of reasons possible for a mutual mis- 
understanding," observed the man of the yellow vest, in the 
same ethereal manner. "But come, now, have you had 
enough fighting?" 
"They have not fought at all yet, Castagno," remarked 



172 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

Messer Domenico, gravely. " Angelo struck once, but I have 
not suffered NiccolS to return the blow." 

" Why not, then ?" demanded the other painter sharply, 
with that same strange glance of malignity upon his dark 
countenance which Angelo had observed there when Vene- 
ziano had assisted his labours in the studio; ''why not? 
Come, Domenico, let us have fair play; the boys are well 
matched. Do not be a fool !" 

** They shall fight if they like," answered Messer Domenico, 
still keeping his hand upon Niccol6*s arm, " to-morrow ; but 
I am going to give them both an invitation first, which 
I earnestly hope neither will refuse. I want you, Angelo 
and Niccol6," he continued, turning to the two children, 
''to come and sup with me this evening at sunset, and to 
promise me that meanwhile you will suspend your quarrel 
until you shall both have bidden me good-night This fruit 
which you have spoiled and trampled here on the pavement, 
Niccol6, was not for Angelo, but for his sick sister Teresa. 
As it is she must go without any, for I have no money to 
buy more : that ought to make you sorry. Now will you 
give me your promise to come to supper with me, and not 
to fight each other before you see me again ?" 

The quiet, unmoved voice touched them. Niccol6 cast 
down his eyes and reddened as he gave the required pledge, 
and felt how Messer Domenico's detaining grasp instantly 
removed itself, and in respect for his sense of honour, gave 
him his freedom. But when Angelo with a beating heart 
lifted his glance to meet the mild countenance of his patron, 
Messer Domenico was no longer there. The grave-faced 
painter had only waited to hear his protege's murmured 
word of promise, and receiving it, had immediately with- 
drawn himself, so that Angelo's gaze encountered only the 
man of the yellow vest, Andrea del Castagno, with his sinister 
smile and the mocking light in his long dark eyes. 

Leaving the bruised fruit upon the pavement, Angelo 
turned swiftly away to seek and to follow his friend, for the 
child had conceived towards Castagno that instinctive spirit 
of aversion with which the presence of evil, even though it 
be unrevealed, often inspires pure and innocent souls, and 
he could not endure to remain unprotected within the range 
of those malevolent orbs. Outside the group of staring 
bucolics he encountered the ruddy-cheeked contadina of 
the fruit-stall, with her linen apron full of ripe pomegranates 
and apricots. 

"Ah — h ;" she cried, with that long deep emphasis of the 
interjection which is peculiar to an excitable nationality, 
** there you come at last, then ! I could not get at you in the 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 1 73 

crowd, because I was afraid of the signore with the sharp 
eyes and the hard voice ; but I thought I should see you 
alone in a minute if I waited. Look, here is some fruit 
instead of that which is spoilt ; it is the best I have left. 
Take it home, my child ; there is not more of it than you can 
carry in your gaberdine." 

Angelo looked up at the soft black eyes and the rosy 
mouth of the market-woman, and gave her his tearful thanks. 
There is nothing so affecting to the human heart as the kind- 
ness of a stranger in a time of injury or distress. 

" God bless you, dear padrona !" cried he, clasping the plump 
little hands that poured the fruit into his tunic ; '' it was for 
my sister Teresa who lies ill at home that Messer Domenico 
gave me that basket-full : I will tell her how good you are. 
But," added he, hesitating, with an air of timidity that suited 
well with his soft seraphic beauty, "what is your name, monna, 
that I may tell my sister about you ?" 

" Cristina, dear child," responded the rosy peasant, readily ; 
''and we will make friends, won't we ? and you shall take me 
to see your Teresa some day. But I must run back now to 
my stall. Good-bye " 

"Angelo," interpolated the youthful proprietor of that 
appellation, perceiving that his new acquaintance paused 
in som^ uncertainty; "and my uncle is Fra Giuseppe the 
Dominican, and I belong to the Signor Veneziano." Which 
last piece of information was volunteered with a dignity of 
bearing, and a pride of voice and gesture, that would have 
provoked Niccol6's malice to exasperation had he only been 
present 

"Ah — hi** said the smiling Cristina once more, with 
a sigh of appreciative satisfaction ; " well, God bless thee, 
then, Angelo; thou wilt always find me in the Mercato 
Vecchio at market-time. We shall meet again." And she 
hastened away, nodding gaily at him as she went, and kissing 
her pretty fat palm in parting salutation. As for Angelo, 
he pursued his way in much content, for he knew in his heart 
that he had that day gained another friend. 



CHAPTER VI. 



MEPHISTOPHELES. 



Niccol6 slunk sullenly away from the Piazza Vecchia, 
and had not got half-way down the Via dell* Alloro, when 
a dark figure walking swiftly overtook him and arrested his 
progress, hailing him by name. 



174 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

•'Hist! Niccol6!" 

It was the voice of Messer Andrea del Castagno, and 
Niccol6 stopped in sulky obedience, not bold enough to 
discard the command of so great a gentleman, and yet 
loth to yield himself to further rebuke or cross-examina- 
tion, especially when garnished with that scornful, flippant 
style of banter which Castagno seemed so much to affect 

But in regard to that latter peculiarity, Niccol6 was fated 
to an agreeable surprise, for in place of the saturnine smile 
which a few minutes ago had so unpleasantly irradiated the 
face of Messer Andrea, there was a corrugated solemnity, 
almost stern enough for a frown, and his chameleon eyes 
glittered no longer with levity, but with the fire of un- 
mistakeable passion. 

" Stop," he whispered, laying his lean hand upon the boy's 
wrist, and bringing his keen piercing gaze to bear full upon 
Niccol6's dazed countenance ; " I have something to say 
to thee. Tell me no lies, they are not necessary with me, 
for I am neither monk nor minstrel Jjook at me, Niccol6, 
and tell me, — art thou able to hateV 

These strange words, pronounced with an intense earnest- 
ness, startled the boy out of his sulky humour, and in- 
voluntarily he obeyed Messer Andrea's monition, and lifted 
his eyes, bewildered and wondering, to the shadowy face 
above him. 

"Tell me, NiccoI6," repeated the painter, in the same 
low whisper of concentrated passion, "art thou capable of 
hatred?" 

"Why, yts^ messer," answered Niccol6, taking courage 
at the recollection of his feud with Domenico's proteg^, " I 
certainly am, for I hate Angelo with all my heart !" 

"Why, then, art thou going to be reconciled to him?" 
asked Castagno, eyeing him sharply. 

"I? — Reconciled?" cried Niccol6, chafing anew with re- 
awakened indignation ; "not I, indeed, messer!" 

"That is well spoken," returned the other, nodding his 
head as though the answer had pleased him ; " but if thou 
art so much of a man as thou wouldst have me believe, 
why go to Messer Domenico's house to-night ? canst thou 
not perceive that he means to make thee friends with Angelo 
there ?" 

"Friends!" echoed Niccol6 again, reddening with fury; 
"he may try, but it shall be in vain!" 

" Come, then," pursued the painter insinuatingly, " if this 
indeed be thy mind, prove that thou art not the coward 
Messer Veneziano would have thee be, and instead of going 
to supper with him and Angelo, come home with me, and 
I will teach thee to play a game at single-stick, whereby 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 1/5 

thou mayest quickly spoil the good looks of the monk's 
white-skinned nephew ! " 

But, to the surprise of Castagno, Angelo's implacable 
enemy hesitated and cast down his eyes. 

" I should like to go with you, Messer Andrea," he stam- 
mered, twisting his fingers nervously about the ornamented 
hilt of the short dagger which the artist wore at his girdle ; 
" but you see, I have promised Messer Domenico to sup at 
his house, and he let me off on that understanding." 

**Pouf !" cried Castagno, with a contemptuous oath, "this 
is some of the nonsense the monks have taught you, I sup- 
pose! Well, if you sup with me you will sup at Messer 
Domenico*s house, for he and I lodge under the same roof. 
Now are you content ?" 

"Under the same roof?" reiterated Niccol6, perplexed in 
his turn : " Then I suppose you must be great friends with 
him!" 

" Not exactly, my child," quoth the painter, with a return 
of that disagreeable sneer which Niccol6 disliked so in- 
tensely ; " I am not very fond of music, and Messer Vene- 
ziano has a taste for twanging lute-strings at unseasonable 
hours, so we occupy different rooms, and take our meals 
separately. Well, whose invitation are you going to accept ?" 

"I am afraid, Messer Castagno," returned Niccol6, with 
some embarrassment of manner, and much ruddiness of 
countenance, "that I shall be obliged to accept Messer 
Veneziano's ; I hope that will not offend you, and indeed 
I had much rather be with you, but you know I promised** 
He laid great emphasis on this last word, pronouncing it in 
a tone of dignity, which, unconscious although it really was, 
visibly annoyed his companion, and prompted the acridity 
of his next rejoinder. 

"Oh, you promised! What a feeble sort of generation 
shall we have by-and-by, if the boys of to-day are not 
sufficiently masters of themselves to follow up their own 
inclinations! Come, Niccol6, I will tell you a secret. In 
a few days the great lords of Florence and their friends 
are going to view the new paintings in the chapel of Santa 
Maria, and Messer Veneziano is in a vast hurry to get his 
picture finished in order that these grand folks may better 
judge of it. Now you know that your stupid little school- 
fellow, Angelo, is intended to figure in this picture, and 
unless you do something to hinder his likeness from being 
completed, these noblemen will certainly not fail to fall into 
raptures of admiration over it, and before long the whole 
city will learn their opinion and repeat it too, for the 
decisions of high rank are always endorsed by the people, 
and you will speedily have the mortification of hearing it 



176 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

proclaimed throughout Florence that Angelo del Fiesole is 
the sweetest and loveliest youth in creation." Castagno 
touched a vulnerable point here, and Niccol6 plainly winced, 
but the next instant he took fire again, and burst into 
a fierce tirade of abuse and invective. 

'*lViU they?" he cried, absolutely stamping with rage; 
" Lovely, indeed ! he is a dolt — sl mummy — a cowardly, 
spiritless puppet, with a skin like white wax, and eyes 
like the crystal globes the conjurors see fortunes in ! Oh, 
they'll go mad after tAat idiot, will they.?" 

** No, they won't," said Castagno, with a cunning air, " if 
you follow my advice." 

"And that is ,** cried Niccol6, catching the painter's 

arm eagerly. 

"To go home with me to-night, and learn a little boxing. 
I can teach you in a very short time how to pound him 
up in the featest manner, and blacken his white complexion, 
and spoil his fine features so effectually, that he will be 
quite useless as a model until long after the exhibition of 
the pictures in the chapel. That is the only way I can 
see of successfully attaining your object ; any other scheme 
might stand a chance of failure." 

" It is a famous idea ! but I know enough of fighting to 
be able to do that without having a lesson first, so that 
I can still keep my word with Messer Veneziano." 

"Ah," rejoined Castagno, quickly, "but if you do that 
he will oblige you to be friends with Angelo. You don't 
know what powers of sophistry and persuasion Messer Vene- 
ziano possesses. He will talk to you about Moving your 
enemies,' and get you to make him some new promise, 
which you will not like to break any more than the one 
you have made him already, however sorry you may be 
afterwards ; that is why I wish you to refuse his invitation. 
Boys like you are easily talked over by a few fine speeches, 
and the world is full of cant about the propriety of peace 
and the blessedness of brotherhood, and such-like puerile 
rubbish, of all which Angelo's patron will not be slow to 
avail himself. For my part I admire a good hater, for 
I am sure that anger is a noble and manly emotion, without 
which human beings are no better than milch cows or fatted 
swine. Universal peace and friendship will be all very well 
in the millennium, but it is fitter and more natural now that 
men should shew some becoming spirit at times, and not 
suffer themselves to fall into a supine and bestial ease, that 
is neither capable of feeling insult, nor of avenging it with 
dignity and honourable resentment. Do you think I can 
trust you to remember this when Messer Domenico is talk- 
ing to you ? You had better sup with me." 



THE PAINTER OF VENICB. 




■ner CMUfLO papleitd it tha dtdrioa of Xloi»lo.-(n Au ^. i;i. 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 1 77 

" No, Messer Castagno," returned NiccoI6, more steadily 
than he had yet spoken during the whole interview, "you 
must let me fulfil my promise, and I am sure now, from what 
I have just heard you say, that you will think the better of 
me if I do. For if it be a good thing to be honourable and 
dignified in conducting one's quarrels, it must also be a good 
thing to be honourable and dignified in keeping one's ap- 
pointments. Self-respect is the same in both cases, as I take 
it; and if I were to break my word to-night and Angelo 
should keep to his, as I know he will, I could no longer hold 
myself at liberty to find fault with him, nor feel worthy to 
resent the injury he causes me, for my right to do so would 
have been forfeited with my own self-esteem." 

This was a line of argument for which the man of the 
yellow vest was not at all prepared. For a minute he stood 
silent and disagreeably perplexed, stroking his close-shaven 
chin with his lean hand, and eyeing his youthful monitor with 
an aspect of mingled surprise and disapproval^ Then his 
colourless lips slowly lapsed into the only smile they were 
ever able to assume, — the very shadow of a smile it was, for 
the substance and reality of it had been long dead, — and the 
irritating tone of banter, which, like a light artistic froth 
always veiled the solid meat of Castagno's displeasure, gave 
an ungenial pungency to his reply, and impressed Niccol6 
more unfavourably than any of his previous utterances. 

" Quite a knight of spotless integrity ! " cried the painter 
in a mock rapture of delight : " without fear and without 
reproach! Really though, what a flower of chivalry you 
must be ! talk of teaching you a trade^ and bringing you up 
among common boys in a monastery ! Pouf ! why you ought 
to be apprenticed to Roland and Oliver, and admitted imme- 
diately to one of the grand orders of knighthood! What 
a jewel of a boy 1 Pray keep your word, most illustrious, 
with that unimpeachable honour which so worthily dis- 
tinguishes you; and after supper, be sure to embrace the 
beautiful and gifted scion of Fra Giuseppe's ancestral house, 
and delight thereby the very apostolical heart of your friend 
Messer Domenico Veneziano. Of course in that case, you 
will shortly have the satisfaction of hearing Angelo's praises 
in every Florentine mouth, and no doubt the same critics 
who commend him will decry ^^« — but what matter ? Angelo, 
too, will probably put you down as a poltroon or a weather- 
cock, shifting with every breeze — but again — what matter? 
You will be consoled by the knowledge of your unblemished 
honour, and will desire no more substantial recompense than 
the approval of your own hallowed conscience. Well done, 
indeed, Ser Niccol6 !" 

" Messer Andrea del Castagno,*' quoth the subject of these 

N 



1/8 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

sarcasms, with a vast sturdiness of manner which he well 
knew how to command at odd times, and for which he was 
no doubt indebted to that same obstinacy of his nature 
which gave continuance and stamina to his enmity with 
Angelo, " if what you are saying be wit, I don't understand 
it, and find nothing fascinating in it, so it's not likely to 
improve me. But I would rather not quarrel with you^ 
because you have been kind to me to-day, and I think you 
mean well to me. So I will bid you good-bye, and hope to 
meet you again very soon, and to tell you that I have not 
embraced Angelo, nor been converted by his patron's dis- 
courses." 

And with that Niccol6 lifted his brown stuff cap to Cas- 
tagno, and went on his way down the alley, while the painter 
stood looking after him, a strange bright flame in his coal- 
like eyes giving him a certain Mephistophelean appearance, 
to which his dark shaven face, mediaeval garb, peaked shoes, 
and the shadowy background of gaunt, gabled walls behind 
him, added not a little. 

*'And I Tjuill go to Messer Veneziano this evening," said 
Niccol6, aloud to himself, as he turned the comer of the Via 
dell* Alloro. 



CHAPTER VII. 

SUNSET, FROM VENEZIANO'S BALCONY. 

When Niccol6 presented himself that evening in Messer 
Veneziano's room, he found his enemy there before him. The 
greeting between the two boys was not a promising one, for 
Niccol6 was determined on his part not to give ground, the 
more especially because Castagno had taunted him with soft- 
heartedness, and warned him of the attempt which Veneziano 
was sure to make towards a reconciliation between his guests ; 
and Angelo had not forgotten the morning's incident, and 
the forcible spoliation of the figs and nectarines. But how- 
ever much and blackly they eyed one another, Messer Do- 
menico took not the least notice of their scowls and sour 
looks, but welcomed Niccol6 as blithely as though env>% 
hatred, and malice were unknown quantities in the world ; 
and glancing towards the supper- table which was ready 
spread in a bright corner of the chamber, cried out in a 
cheery voice, "Boys, are you hungry.^" 

"I am not," answered NiccolS, sullenly, seeing that the 
painter looked at him first and expected a reply ; " I never 
care much for supper." 

** I don't mind about eating just now," answered Angelo in 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 1 79 

his turn. ** Fra Giuseppe gave me a sweet cate this afternoon 
when he came to see Teresa." 

" If that IS the case," said Messer Domenico, with the same 
pleasant manner, " and you are neither in a hurry for supper, 
what do you say to a little music first ? It is quite early in 
the evening yet, and there is a delightful window here with 
a balcony you see, where I always sit and play as the night 
draws in." 

"I know!" cried Angelo, brightening up. "That is how 
I first heard you on the night when Messer ^ndrea del — ** 

But suddenly he paused ; for, at the mention of that name, 
Domenico's eyes darkened with the same sad, troubled look 
which Angelo had noticed on one or two previous occasions, 
and which always seemed to cloud his face when anything 
was said in his presence which appeared likely to kindle or 
revive a spirit of bitterness. Then immediately catching up 
his lute from a comer behind him, Veneziano rose and led 
the way to an open window overlooking the Piazza della 
Maria Nuova, beyond which was seen the greater part of 
Florence, with its picturesque peaked houses of the fifteenth 
century, its tortuous winding streets and paved squares, its 
fountains and pleasaunces ; and, towards the south-west, the 
flashing waters of the Arno, golden as the fabled river Pactolus 
under the flaming touch of the setting sun, and studded here 
and there with the brown hulls of merchant vessels, or the 
dipping canvas-sails of fishing lanteens. 

Messer Veneziano's balcony was a picture in itself, and 
worthy of the great artist, who delighted to spend his leisure 
beneath its broad green verandah, and feast his eyes on the 
varied forms and rich tints of the landscape it commanded. 
Over its wooden pilasters clustered the heavy foliage of 
a climbing vine which covered the outer wall of the house, 
and upon the white pavement of the balcony itself, coloured 
tazze of flowers, — japonica blossom, roses, and scented gera- 
niums, — brightened the cool thick shadow of the greenery 
that hung above them. Just at the time of sunset this 
charming little bower was especially lovely, for the aroma 
of the flowers was sweetest then, and the air most pleasant, 
while the city beneath and beyond was at its best and 
gayest, and the whole clear Italian sky overhead hung 
steeped in an effulgent sheen of changeful crimson. 

There was such a sunset as this on the evening of which 
we speak, and when Messer Veneziano led his two guests to 
their seats in the balcony, it was evident that the glorious 
beauty and tender influences of the hour had already begun 
to work their charm upon the heart of Angelo, always sus- 
ceptible to the persuasions of Nature, and the glance he cast 
at Niccol6 as the boys .silently appropriated the two low 

N 2 



l8cJ THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

stools Messer Veneziano pointed out to them, was so far 
gracious that his enemy flushed with surprise ; for those 
who have not the poetic heart are strangers to the *' peace 
and goodwill" which the angels of open earth and heaven are 
ever ready to sing in the ears of shepherd watchers. 

But, indeed, the fair scene that lay beyond Domenico's 
balcony was lovely and rare enough to have moved a less 
sensitive soul than Angelo's. Florence has been always 
known as one of the most picturesque cities of Europe, and 
those who have had the good fortune to see it themselves, 
may imagine how beautiful it looked in mediaeval times, with 
its porticoed buildings, its quaint bridges, its spacious squares, 
all gorgeous with the vivid splendour of an exceptionally 
brilliant sunset Every gable and porch were rosy with the 
reflected carmine of the glowing western sky, across which 
floated a slow-moving train of fantastic clouds, full of that 
changeful opal-light one only sees at the close of a summer 
afternoon, and transpierced by a hundred shafts of upward- 
darting radiance, ascending like so many tall plumes of light 
from the golden-burnished crest of the day-god himself. 

For a little while Messer Veneziano suffered his guests to 
contemplate the magnificent panorama in silence, and then, 
while their eyes were yet riveted upon it, he drew from the 
lute he held a few soft uncertain notes, and straighti^*ay began 
in Italian, S. Bernard's beautiful hymn of praise to the Holy 
Name of Jesus. 

Nature and Fine Art, when they are thus combined, each 
under its most winning aspect, have more power to touch 
and subdue the human soul than all the rhetoric or theories 
which Science can muster. The flaming glories of sunset, 
the delicious perfume of the roses, the delicate reticulated 
coolness of the vine, the peaceful beauty of the bright-tinted 
city beneath, the thrilling music, and the sweet passionate 
words of song that stirred the warm balmy air around Niccol6 
and his rival, did with them more than the ablest sermon on 
charity could have accomplished. Under such tender and 
beautiful influences it would have been impossible for even 
hardened and experienced minds to have remained unmoved, 
but Messer Veneziano's guests were only children, and their 
senses were still acute and their hearts impressible. And as 
note after note of the poet-painter's rich tenor voice vibrated 
the still sunlit atmosphere, and the sweet music of the silver 
strings kept time to the rise and fall of the pathetic yearning 
words he uttered, Niccol6 and his companion, moved by the 
selfsame impulse, rose together from their seats, and leaning 
upon the green garlanded rail of the balcony, turned their 
faces with one accord towards the setting sun. Little by 
little he sank into the misty vapours beyond the river, 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 




THE PAINTER OF VENICE. l8l 

and overhead, in the jasper-lined vault of clear infinite 
aether, the full moon emerging from a purple cloud stood 
revealed in her glory of white sheeny light, like the gentle 
eye of God in the midst of heaven, silently rebukeful of sin, 
and shaming with its calm, mild patience the turbulent 
passions and rage of men. Where the sun had gone down, 
the scarlet and gold of the sunset paled into green, soft 
and drowsy as the deep-sea hue in sumnier-time, and the 
clouds that hung about the distant reaches of the west lost 
their flame and began to put on the darker but scarce less 
beautiful garb of night. Then, too, the hum and stir that 
had not ceased in the city since dawn grew fainter and 
fainter, until, save that here and there a church-bell 
sonorously tolled the hour, or a wandering strain of serenade- 
music piped and trilled in the distance, the repose of earth 
became almost as profound as that of heaven. And con- 
tinually the clear, sweet voice of Messer Domenico went up 
with the sound of the silver strings through the still moon-lit 
air, as with the passionate tenderness of a Divine Love upon 
his lips, he sang : — 

" O Jesu ! Thou the beauty art 
Of angel worlds above, 
Thy Name is music to the heart. 
Enchanting it with love ! 

•* Celestial Sweetness, unalloyed, , 

Who eat Thee hunger still. 
Who drink of Thee feel yet a void 
Which only Thou canst fill 1 

** Stay with us. Lord, and with Thy light 
lUume the world's abyss ; 
Scatter the darkness of our night, 
And fill the earth with bliss I 

** Thee may our tongues for ever bless ; 
Thee may we love alone ; 
And ever in our lives express 
The Image of Thine own V 

Angelo's blue eyts filled with tears; Niccol6's heart thrilled 
with a strange, unwonted sensation. * Insensibly they lifted 
their faces towards the sea of pure colour above them, and as 
the last prayerful words of sweet music died upon the air, 
and they turned their gaze earthward again, their eyes met, 
softened with a new light, and the next minute their hands 
met also in the grasp of that human sympathy for the True 
and the Beautiful in Nature, which is the very talisman of 
the Gentle Life, the golden plectrum by which alone the 
cithern strings of the heart can be made to give out the 



1 82 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

harmony of virtuous and kindly deeds. Thus, then, in the 
spirit of a true artist, Domenico appealed to the hearts of 
the boy- wranglers by means of a picture. For he knew that 
real beauty is always didactic, and that there are, in sooth, 
more eloquent sermons in stones, and abler lectures in land- 
scapes, than in a hundred arguments delivered by the lips 
of men. 

I leave you to imagine how the evening closed, and whether 
or not those cates and sweetmeats, which Veneziano had pre- 
pared with lavish hospitality, were delectable to the taste of 
his youthful guests. Not once did the kind and wise painter 
refer to the morning's fray, nor even to the recent peace-mak- 
ing. He told stories and sang songs innumerable, and brought 
out of his closet many a beautiful sketch and coloured design 
for the entertainment of the two boys : never was a supper- 
party more thoroughly successful in its details, never did 
hours pass more swiftly or laughter sound more blithe and 
sincere. In the hearts of the monk's nephew and his new 
friend was a peace which had been strange to them both for 
many a long day, and though as yet no word of apology or 
of pardon had passed between them, they were already recon- 
ciled by virtue of that silent interchange of sympathy which 
is the universal utterance of all the deep and subtle emotions 
of humanity. It was not until they had bidden their good 
host farewell, and were on the point of parting from each 
other at the corner of the street which conducted to Angelo's 
home, that Niccol6, resting his hand a moment in that of his 
late antagonist, raised his brown eyes to the beautiful face 
which above all objects had most awakened his envy, and 
murmured regretfully, a sense of shame tinging his dark 
cheeks with crimson while he spoke, "/ am sorry I spoiled 
your fruit, Angelo^ 

"It does not matter now," returned the other, hastily. 
"Indeed, I think I am glad you did. You know, Niccol6, 
but for that, we should not have supped with Messer Domen- 
ico to-night." 

And as Niccol6 turned away, it did not even occur to him 
to wonder what the man in the yellow vest would have to say 
to him when next they met 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 183 



CHAPTER VIII. 

LITTLE TERESA GOES HOME. 

A CURIOUS little white cottage, one story high, with quaint 
oval windows like eyes, and flower-pots ranged in the wooden 
balcony over the doorway. Under the gabled porch, two 
women, habited in the Italian peasant -garb of mediaeval 
time?, stand talking earnestly together, with faces that betray 
an interest too vivid to suit with the light affairs of ordinary 
gossip. They are Ursula and Cristina the market-woman, 
who, through her acquaintance with Angelo, has recently 
become a pretty constant visitor to the bedside of his invalid 
sister. And there on the oaken settle beneath the porch, 
rests a great yellow pannier, containing fruit, eggs, and cream, 
a goodly store of dainties which the kind-hearted Pomona has 
just delivered into the care of Teresa's nurse as a present for 
that poor little maiden who lies so pale and so patient from 
day to day upon her couch in the rose-scented chamber 
within. 

"So she is no better, Monna Ursula.^" asks the younger 
woman, settling her broidered kerchief with a plump peachy 
hand, upon which the gold wedding-ring gleams brightly in 
the noonday sunshine. 

"No," returns Teresa's guardian, curtly; "and she never 
will be better in this world." 

** Poor thing 1" sighs Cristina, with a shake of her round 
head, that sets two long silver earrings twinkling and bobbing 
on either side of it ; " ah, poor thing !" 

"And why 'poor?'" retorts Ursula ; "won't the child be 
better off" among the angels in heaven than in that dark room 
of hers yonder, I should like to know.^" 

Cristina is taken slightly aback by this unexpected inter- 
rogatory, and she opens her sloe-like eyes in indolent depre- 
cation of the old woman's rebuke. 

" Oh yes, Monna, of course ; but for Angelo, you under- 
stand — poor boy — to be left so alone when his sister 
goes " 

"I tell you," says Ursula, cutting her short again with 
a decisive tone and a quick emphatic gesture, " Angelo will 
be far better off", too, when Teresa is at rest among the 
seraphs. His uncle, Fra Giuseppe, will make a religious of 
him, then ; now he can't do that, because it would be cruel 
to separate two such children ; and so long as Teresa lives, 

Angelo's duty is to bide by her. But by-and-by ," she 

paused, and glanced significantly towards the inner room. 

"Ah, well!" says Cristina, complacently regarding the 



1 84 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

bright bars of colour with which her kirtle is profusely 
adorned ; " and you think the boy likes the idea of con- 
ventual discipline ? For my part I never could understand 
the beauty of the monastic life, — there is so much gloom, 
so much sadness, so much isolation about it. But then 
to be sure, if one had a vocation it would seem different, 
I suppose. To me, everything would be intolerable without 
my husband and my babies: home is my paradise, — the 
prattle of my little Nina and the fat creasy arms and legs 
of my bambino, are better to me than all the Gregorian 
chants that ever were sung, and all the. relics of dead dusty 
saints that ever were kissed ; and I couldn't get on without 
my holiday gear, and my crimson girdle, and my amber 
necklace. Oliviero says I look so well in them on festa 
days, you know, when he and I go to mass together, and 
to the fair afterwards : and to have no Oliviero and no 
bambino, — and to have always the same dingy, coarse, 
straight-down gown with a rope perhaps round one's waist 
and a cowl over one's head, — oh !" 

Ursula vouchsafes no reply to this lively tirade. Perhaps 
she is deep in a dream of her own home in the past, Aer 
paradise that now is lost, of the sweet ties which death 
has broken, of the dear voices time has silenced, of the 
husband and children awaiting her in some far-off happy 
mansion of the Father's house. Ah, what would become 
of us all in this hard work-a-day world, were it not for 
the blessed anticipation of " Paradise regained." It is that 
heart-longing which alone consoles us for our human fore- 
knowledge of death ! 

"Monna Ursula!" cried the blithe voice of the younger 
matron, suddenly, "I protest I see our Angelo coming 
hither with his old enemy beside him, and apparently on 
the most affectionate terms ! What strange beings children 
are ; two days ago they were ready to tear each other's 
eyes out!" 

"Aye!" answered the old nurse, shading her brow with 
her hand as she looked out down the sunny street, "for- 
giveness is but a childish fashion truly; we bear malice 
when we grow older ; but of such as these is the kingdom 
of heaven." 

As she spoke the two boys drew near with rapid steps, 
their eyes glittering with delight, and their cheeks flushed 
with wholesome excitement. 

"Only think!" cried Angelo, clapping his hands and 
executing a /^as d'extase under the trellised porch, " Messer 
Domenico has begged a holiday to-day for all the boys at 
the monastery, on account of the exhibition of the new 
frescoes at the Santa Maria Nuova. The great signori of 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 18$ 

Medici and his friends were at the chapel yesterday after- 
noon, and we are all to go to-day and look at the pictures 
in our turn. And I am there you know, Monna Ursula, 
painted by Messer Veneziano as an angel. Oh ! I have got 
such a pair of wings, I promise you : only think !" 

"And," continued Niccol6, taking up the wondrous tale 
with a reminiscence of his former jealousy, "do you know 
they say in the city that all the nobles admired Messer 
Veneziano*s frescoes much more than his friend's, and were 
heard to say so openly, while Messer del Castagno was 
present. I wonder how he liked that ; it must have been 
rather hard to bear, I should think." 

"Ah!" returned Angelo quickly, finding in this last re- 
mark of Niccol6's an opportunity for publishing his patron's 
greatness, " / am not surprised that they said that : for 
although no doubt Messer del Castagno is a very great 
artist, I am sure he is nothing in comparison with the 
Ser Veneziano ! Do you know that Castagno is his friend's 
pupil, and that every day he takes lessons of him in the 
new method of painting which the Venetian painters use? 
Messer Domenico can lay on colours with oil as well as 
water, and he is teaching Castagno to do the same. And 
that is why they live together." 

" Who told you all that ? " asked Niccol6, with some 
astonishment. 

" Why my patron, of course," replied the other, grandly ; 
" I get my news from the fountain - head, not from the 
contadini at the doors of the taverns. It was Messer Do- 
menico himself who told me all that one day, when I had 
asked him why the man with the yellow vest was so often 
in his room, leaning over his shoulder, and watching him 
paint his cartoons. But at any rate, the great point is 
that we have got a holiday, and when I have talked a 
bit to Teresa, you and I will go to the chapel, Niccol6, 
and see the sight for ourselves." 

And he ran merrily into the house. 

Poor Angelo! Inside that little shaded chamber sorrow 
was waiting for him. For Teresa, excited by the sound of 
the chattering and laughing under the verandah, had sprung 
up in her bed, and was bending forward with eager flushed 
face and burning eyes, to catch a glimpse of the talkers 
through the half-open door. 

"Teresa!" cried her brother, running in with his curls 
flying behind him, "you must not jump up like that, it 
will make you cough so dreadfully ! Oh, do lie down !" 

But the adjuration came too late. Flinging her thin arms 
about his neck, the sick child burst suddenly into an hysteric 
fit of mingled laughter and tears, one moment congratulating 



l86 THE PAINTER OF VENICE, 

her darling Angelo upon the immortalization secured to him 
by Messer Domenico's painting, and anon lamenting with 
frenzied grief that, while all the townspeople were gone to 
admire the wonderful masterpiece, she, who alone had a 
dear and particular interest in it, must perforce remain 
behind, solitary and quiet in her dark little chamber. Nor 
would she be consoled, even when Monna Ursula and the 
good Cristina pressed her to their motherly bosoms, and 
promised to glean for her all the tidings and gossip obtain- 
able about the new picture; she continued to weep pas- 
sionately, crying out between her sobs that she had never 
before understood how bitter and sorrowful a thing her 
weakness could really be ; for now it was destined to hinder 
her from going with the neighbours to the chapel of the 
Santa Maria Nuova, to enjoy there the very best sight of 
the whole long year! Poor little Teresa! — she was only 
a child, and the disappointment was indeed heavy for so 
frail a form and so tried a heart to sustain ; nor is the 
quick Italian temperament attuned to patience like the 
hardier nature of more northern climes. 

Already some low hurried talk had passed between the 
two women about the possibility of muffling Teresa in 
a mantle and carrying her, bambino-fashion, to the spot 
she so ardently wished to visit, when their kindly inten- 
tions were suddenly frustrated by the occurrence of that 
identical disaster which Angelo had sagely foretold. A vio- 
lent attack of coughing succeeded Teresa's sobs, and her 
whole frame, already exhausted by the agitation of an 
hysteric fit, was now donvulsed anew by a yet more terrible 
paroxysm. She beat the air piteously with her tiny wasted 
hands, and struggled for breath till her brow was moist with 
the dews of a mortal anguish. Tenderly the women raised 
her from her pillows, while Angelo and his friend stood by 
dismayed and pallid, for neither of them had ever witnessed 
until now so distressing and ghastly a sight as this. Then 
came an interval of silence, — they hoped of repose also, 
but that was not to be. Teresa fell back upon Ursula's 
breast, and lay there a minute with closed eyes and 
tremulous lips, drawing great slow breaths that sounded 
like sobs; then she turned her head with a languid weary 
gesture, as though she sought the support of the cushion 
behind her, uttered a low cry of pain, and seemed to swoon. 
Cristina shrieked and ran hastily for a basin of water, 
but Angelo, dimly understanding that the worst had at 
length arrived, dropt upon his knees by the bed, and covered 
his face with his hands. A moment of suspense inter- 
vened, and no sound broke the awful stillness, save one low 
moan, — an ominous sound that lost itself in a gurgling sob, 



..NTBR Of "^•■'^ 




THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 1 87 

and passed away into silence more profound than before. 
Ursula was the first to recover herself. Gently raising the 
unconscious form of the child in her arms, she brushed 
aside the brown fallen curls from the damp brow, and 
moistened the white breathless lips with water. No care 
could now restore the spent life, no love could re-animate 
the little worn emaciated body. Teresa had done with the 
world for evermore. 



Outside on the settle under the portico, the rosy apples in 
Cristina's basket grew ruddier still under the hot kiss of the 
morning sun, and the vine-leaves drooped and shrivelled 
above them, but no one heeded, and no footstep disturbed 
the silence; until at last, as the shadows of the latticed 
verandah began to lengthen towards the east, the cottage- 
door opened, and Angelo and his school-fellow passed slowly 
out into the glow of sunset-light westward. Their errand 
was to Fra Giuseppe at the Dominican monastery of Fiesole. 



CHAPTER IX. 

SUMMER ON THE BANKS OF THE MUGNONE. 

Once again the course of our story carries us to the banks 
of that picturesque little runlet in the valley of Fiesole. 
There, one. balmy Sunday morning after matins, upon the 
smooth moss-sprinkled turf, where the tall flags and water- 
sedges were thickest, the stream most musical, and the sha- 
dows greenest, reclined side by side the figures of Ser Do- 
menico and of the good Fra Giuseppe. 

It was the day after little Teresa's burial, and Angelo's 
two patrons were occupied, naturally enough, in discussing 
the future prospects of their favourite. Both men inclined to 
the belief that the monastic life was, of all others, best fitted 
to the tenderness and indolent softness of Angelo's disposi- 
tion, so ill-suited for active battle with the rigours of poverty, 
and the hurry and stir of that world of trade with which he 
would most surely have to contend if he entered upon a 
secular career. Nor indeed, as Fra Giuseppe argued, had 
the boy hitherto manifested the least indication of skill in any 
branch of craftsmanship ; and those leisure hours which his 
playmates devoted to the pursuit of their several pet hobbies, 
and to the employment of knife, chisel, or saw, Angelo passed 
in solitary wanderings through the vineyards, musing or 



1 88 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

singing as he walked ; or, at times, repeating aloud some 
hymn or psalm* which had been recently chanted in the 
oratory. " So that I greatly fear/' concluded the good eccle- 
siastic, "supposing the boy should be provided with some 
craft and apprenticed to a master, lest this natural languor 
and inability to apply his mind to study should materially 
affect his progress in trade, and bring him perhaps into dis- 
repute with his superiors, and to ridicule among his fellow- 
servants. Therefore, Messer Veneziano, it is strongly forced 
on my conviction that the cloister is indeed Angelo's proper 
home ; and it seems to me that our Lord, by removing the 
little Teresa to Paradise, has purposely opened the way for 
her brother's reception as a neophyte, if only the inclination 
of the boy himself accords with the disposition of events." 

'* But my good Frate," enquired Veneziano, " have you 
never yet ascertained what are Angelo's desires in this par- 
ticular respect?" 

" I am hardly sure of them, dear friend. It is true that 
I have always encouraged Angelo to dwell upon the thought 
of the religious life, and have never found him averse to the 
contemplation of it ; but while Teresa yet remained to us, I did 
not directly propose to him any choice in the matter, for it 
seemed to me unwise to wean his affections from her, or to 
seek a recluse at the expense of her trial and discomfort. 
Rather, indeed, have I sought to impress on him the neces- 
sity of strengthening himself — if need should be — to become 
her protector and champion in the world ; for at times I 
fancied it possible she might linger with us many years. 
One sees those things happen, you know, — the human frame 
can bear so much disease, and yet retain its hold on the 
divine spark. But God has otherwise ordained ; and Angelo 
is free to decide as he lists." 

" He is a strange boy," said Ser Domenico, presently : 
•' I shall keep a lively interest in him all my life, wherever for- 
tune may take me. And I hope, by God's grace, that already 
my friendship has wrought the child some slight benefit." 

** Truly, dear friend, had it not been for your kindly ad- 
vice and Christian interference, my nephew and his school- 
mate Niccol6 must have remained the bitterest of enemies. 
It is to your sweet lute and pious hymn that they are in- 
debted, under the grace of God, for their most happy re- 
conciliation." 

"Yes!" answered the minstrel-painter, smiling, "the lute 
and the sunset wrought the charm. Nature is ever seeking 
to assimilate earth to heaven ; if we do but suffer our ears 
to hear her voice, and our eyes to dwell upon her beauty, she 
will infallibly recall us to pristine tenderness and peace." 

" You express my own conviction," remarked the monk. 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE, 1 89 

thoughtfully ; " and I observe in our child so great and in- 
tuitive an appreciation of that subtle appeal of nature, that 
I suspect he is not altogether the dunce which some of us at 
the monastery yonder are apt to believe. You may find him 
now and then before daybreak, seated on a scarp of rock, 
half-way up the hill, with his chin on his hand, and his eyes 
fixed upon the reddening east, conning no recondite manu- 
script of man's inditing, but that eternal and glorious Gospel 
which God's own hand inscribes across His heaven night and 
morn, in living letters of fire ; a writing which Angelo loves 
to read in solitude, and which he comprehends and remembers 
as none other of our pupils are able to do. I fancy, for my 
part, that the child is almost a poet." 

" It may be," returned Ser Domenico. " There is always 
greatness in the soul which can afford to dispense with 
human fellowship. Such voluntary retirement proves a 
sense of kindred with higher existences. Fra Giuseppe, 
I think Angelo may become a saint some day. And, so far 
as I see, his way to the crown and the white robe must lie 
through the shadows of the cloister. Make 'him a novice, 
good father." 

"Methinks truly," replied the other, "that the course of 
events indicates that holy path for him. Our Lord has taken 
from earth, one by one, all those in the outer world for whose 
sake his presence by tlie home-fireside might have seemed 
needful. All are gone before to await* his arrival at the 
Master's house. And you, too, they tell me, must soon leave 
us for the lagoons and gaieties of Venice." 

" It is true," answered the painter, " that I must shortly 
depart ; but I think it not unlikely that the courtesies of your 
noble Cosmo de Medici may ere long oblige me to return to 
you for a season." 

" He is a great man," said the monk ; " and he loves to 
make himself the companion of great men." 

"There is a speech worthy of a Florentine!" cried the 
painter, gaily doffing his cap and saluting the old Frate with 
mock solemnity of acknowledgment: "Ah, Fra Giuseppe, 
I protest no courtier could have framed a compliment more 
gracefully." 

" It came from my heart, friend," rejoined the monk, with 
a grave smile ; " your courtiers cannot always boast of so 
much sincerity. But tell me, — does Messer del Castagno 
remain in Florence after your departure?" 

" Why do you ask me that ?" said Veneziano, averting his 
face from the gaze of his companion. 

" Because," returned Fra Giuseppe, who never made a secret 
of anything, " he seems to have taken a fancy to our Niccol6, 
and I imagine — God forgive me if I ignorantly wrong a good 




igo THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

man — that his influence over the boy may prove at least 
less kindly than yours. I had from Niccol6 lately some 
slight account of a conversation between them, and as the 
confidence was not made to me in the confessional, I do no 
harm in assuring you that the counsel Messer del Castagno 
gave the lad, upon the occasion I have named, was scarcely 
such as a Christian religious could approve. Now I should 
not like Niccol6 to become further intimate with him ; yet 
I hear you are his friend, and gossip adds that he is also 
your pupil." 

Messer Domenico lifted his face, and laid his hand gently 
upon the monk's arm. "Fra Giuseppe," said he, in a low, 
steady voice, " believe me, you indeed err : I will tell you all 
I know of Andrea del Castagno, for I owe so much to justice, 
to your friendship, and to the tie which exists between you 
and Angelo. I first met the man of whom we speak in Venice, 
not long ago. He has always been ambitious of distinction ; 
and when it was told him that I had learnt in the studio of 
Antonello of Messina, and had been instructed by my master 
in the new manner of colouring by means of oil, he visited at 
my house, and besought me that I would initiate him also in 
that art. I must not conceal from you, my friend, that I had 
the weakness to hesitate about my reply. I knew myself to 
possess a great secret, which my vanity urged me to retain 
undivulged, and I perceived that my visitor was a man of 
genius, and, if armed with the superior acquirements he 
sought at my hands, might soon eclipse and outstrip me. 
Nay, worse than even this, I permitted my senses to be 
swayed by a prejudice I conceived against his very face and 
manner of speaking ; the tone of his voice offended my too 
fastidious fancy, and I absolutely took exception to the 
expression and the colour of his eyes. I mention these 
ludicrous foibles of mine, Fra Giuseppe, not less to shame 
myself than to convince you, by what follows, how great 
was my mistake in forming so hasty a judgment, and how 
little characteristics of physique are to be trusted as criterions 
of a man's moral nature. It was not until we met in this 
city that I yielded to Castagno's pressing entreaties, and 
consented to admit him to my studio. He took lodgings 
in the house I had chosen for my own residence here, and 
I soon learned to enjoy his companionship, for he has 
a fluent tongue and lively imagination ; while his intellectual 
capacity exceeds mine as far, dear Frate, as yours the sim- 
plicity of Angelo. Andrea is impatient, I cannot deny it, 
and he is even passionate now and then ; but these are the 
errors of genius, and who will not readily forgive them ? 
No doubt that advice of his which you regarded with so much 
disapproval, was tendered to Niccol6 in some rash moment 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. I9I 

of irritation ; and believe me, Andrea in his more sober 
moods, would be the first to condemn it. It is impossible 
for me, Fra Giuseppe, to pardon myself that selfishness of 
which I was once guilty towards him, nor can I ever enough 
express my sense of Castagno*s generosity in so easily for- 
getting it. But in order that I may never again harbour an 
unkindly feeling towards him, nor suffer an ill word of him 
to be spoken unchecked in my presence, I have imposed 
on myself a perpetual penance, which perhaps you may 
consider as light and trivial as it is quaint and eccentric. 
It is this ; that whenever a thought detrimental to the 
merit of my friend arises in my heart, or whenever I hear 
others speak of him disparagingly, I put aside brush, palette, 
or book, and drawing out my lute from my bosom, I charm 
away the evil spirit of discord which would disturb me, by 
some snatch of melody, as once you remember, Frate, the 
shepherd youth was wont to chase the demon from the 
breast of Saul." 

"Tis a pretty device," quoth Fra Giuseppe, "and worthy 
of the poet who adopts it ; but is it always successful }" 

" I strive to make it so," answered Domenico, humbly ; 
" it is but my way of praying against the powers of disorder. 
Plaintive music is the strongest and truest restorer of peace 
with which I am acquainted; and, as a rule, I have found 
others equally amenable to its gentle influence." 

Fra Giuseppe bent his head in silence, and the painter 
resumed his narration. 

" We spend our evenings together," continued he, " in the 
pleasantest fashion, for Castagno is the most delightfully 
genial companion in the world. Every day, when our work 
at the chapel of the Santa Maria is concluded, he returns 
with me to our lodgings ; or, if the evening be particularly 
inviting, we stroll and loiter together in the country, I some^ 
times playing upon my lute when we chance to rest, and he 
rhapsodizing, as he only can, upon a thousand wonderful 
phases of art and nature. Ah, how you would like to hear 
him discourse, Fra Giuseppe!" 

The old monk winced. Somehow his heart thrilled disagree- 
ably at finding the simple Messer Domenico so earnest in the 
praises of this Andrea del Castagno. Could it be, wondered 
the Frate, that his own instinct had deceived him, as Vene- 
ziano believed himself to have been formerly misled i could 
the man in the yellow vest be really the worthy and noble 
being that his friend supposed? Castagno's face said "no," 
and the monk knew that he generally read faces well : 
Niccolo's account of him said " no," also ; and the monk 
knew that Niccol6 had never been detected in a falsehood. 
And yet Veneziano, himself the best and simplest of men, 



^ 



192 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

and Castagno's most familiar companion, believed so firmly 
in his virtue and sincerity. Here was an anomaly : but the 
good Fra Giuseppe was no hypocrite, and on certain subjects 
was accustomed to hold such strong opinions, that he could 
not bring himself to express contrition for the blame he had 
imputed to Niccol6*s tempter, even were it to do a pleasure to 
Angelo's benefactor. 

So there was an awkward pause, while the water bubbled 
away noisily over the rolling pebbles, and the monk betook 
himself to gathering the rushes at his side, and waiting in 
silence for some further confidence on the part of his com- 
panion. None came, however, and at length the good Frate 
grew desperate, and by way of divertisement, propounded 
a query in another direction, yet sufficiently near the topic of 
their recent converse to avoid the appearance of abruptness. 

"Are the frescoes of the Santa Maria completed?" he 
asked, delighted with his own ingenuity in so perplexing 
a situation. 

*• Not entirely ; but they are much further advanced than 
the ceiling of the chapel." 

"And that is also your work ?'' 

" Mine, — and Andrea's." 

"Ah!" said the monk, hastily; "but I thought the Medici 
princes had already seen and pronounced on the paintings ?" 

" They have seen the frescoes only ; the ceiling was not 
uncovered for them : but the whole chapel will be completed 
soon ; in a week at the furthest, I fancy, for Andrea works 
even more quickly than I; and he is a far better draughtsman: 
I have seen none who can equal him among living men in 
this respect, save perhaps Roselli and Masaccio." 

Fra Giuseppe began to feel hipped, for his instinctive mistrust 
of Castagno increased in proportion to the zeal of Veneziano's 
championship, and he feared by-and-by to become positively 
uncharitable. Looking up in his embarrassment for some 
object that might distract his attention, he perceived Angelo 
approaching at a distance with his former enemy and now 
inseparable ally, and hailing the welcome sight as a God-send, 
leaped to his feet with alacrity, and beckoned the two boys to 
join him and the Ser Veneziano. 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. I93 

CHAPTER X. 

NICCOLd'S PETITION. 

It needed but a glance of the Prate's clear eyes to detect 
an unusual gravity and thoughtfulness in the demeanour of 
his two pupils, and to convince him that some conversation 
of a specially earnest character must have recently engrossed 
their minds. 

"So you have been walking together this morning, my 
children," began the old man, as he invited them to a seat on 
the mossy turf beside him. 

** Yes, uncle," returned Angelo, in a subdued voice, " and 
we have something of great importance to tell you ; some- 
thing which I hope you will be glad to hear." 

He paused, and Veneziano, believing that the boys wished 
to continue their confidence to the monk in private, gathered 
his mantle about him, and prepared to rise, when Angelo 
darted forward, and seizing the painter warmly by the hand, 
besought him to remain in his place, and to assist them with 
his friendly counsel, " For," added the lad, with kindling eyes 
into which the tears rose while he spoke, " it ill becomes me 
to keep secret from you the strongest desire of my heart, and 
the most serious resolution which I have ever formed ; nor 
does Niccol6 intend to be more mysterious on this subject 
than I, since he has already obtained the consent of his 
father and mother to follow the path he has chosen to tread 
with me." 

" This is an eloquent beginning, Angelo," quoth the monk, 
smiling, "but we have yet to learn what serious resolution 
this is in which you two are so solemnly agreed. And as 
you appear to be spokesman, I pray you relieve our anxiety 
on the matter without more preamble. 

" Dear uncle and father," murmured the child, dropping his 
fair head upon the Prate's shoulder, and blushing as he 
uttered his avowal ; " it is this, that Niccol6 and I are sure 
we have vocations to serve God in the cloister^ and we wish, 
both of us, to enter the Dominican fraternity, and become 
monks there together." 

Pra Giuseppe's heart gave a great bound, and his face 
blanched as he met the glance of Ser Veneziano. Por 
a little while his emotion hindered him from speaking, and 
he could only press his nephew warmly to his breast, and 
inwardly entreat the Master to inspire him with grace to 
judge aright and to counsel discreetly. 

" My child," said he presently, in slow, gentle tones that 
betrayed his deep agitation of mind, "God forbid that I 

O 



I 



194 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

should seek to discourage you in your pious desire, I, who 
for so many long years have joyfully served Him in this 
virginal habit ; I, to whom that service has been sweet and 
peaceful as the duty of angels! But it behoves me to 
'remind you both of your present youth, and of the many 
changes of disposition common to boys of your age ; of 
worldly chances that may yet perhaps surprise you, and 
allure your steps to some other way ; in brief, dear children, 
of the thousand accidents possible during these next five 
years, which must pass over your heads before either of you 
arrive at the estate of manhood." 

** Father," said Niccol6, looking reverently up at the white- 
haired ecclesiastic, and speaking in a voice of great decision 
and calmness, "do not imagine that Angelo and I have 
determined this matter in haste. Long had I thought of 
it before I knew that he also was bent upon the same 
course ; nor, when last night I named my wishes to them 
at home, did my father and mother appear the least as- 
tonished at hearing what I told them. They have other 
sons to work for them, and to cheer their old age, and 
they do not repine over the thought of yielding me to God. 
Do you not believe, father* that at sixteen I am able to 
judge for myself in such an affair as this ?" 

I only dread, my dear son," returned the monk, earnestly, 

lest you should judge with too much precipitation, and 
vow too rashly, as Jephtha did of old. For one of your 
vigorous health and active character, Niccol6, the monastery, 
remember, may some day prove a grievous restraint. I can- 
not but entertain some fears on your account which do not 
trouble me for Angelo, since he was always different from 
you in temperament, and fitted, as I imagine, to find repose 
and peace where you would only experience dulness and 
monotony. Yet, my son, I seek not to drive back a sheep 
from the Lord's fold, and if, indeed, you have heard His 
voice inviting you to follow Him more closely than He 
permits to those of the outer world, I would rather applaud 
your obedience than condemn your imprudence. What then, 
my child, is your motive for thus seeking admission to the 
Dominican confraternity ? " 

Niccol6 rose from his seat, and stood before the Frate 
with folded arms and burning cheeks. 

" Father," said he again, in a voice which struggled man- 
fully against a storm of passionate tears, " you do not know 
— you cannot guess with how powerful and indomitable 
a devil I have to contend ! It is a devil that * goeth not 
out save by prayer and fasting.' Let me seize this hour 
of grace which God accords me, before the fiend returns 
again to his evil work ! I am tormented with a continual 



it 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. I95 

envy and jealousy of every creature more gifted or more 
blessed than myself; I am devoured by a constant thirst 
after the praise of men, and by a malignant hatred of those 
who on any account are preferred before me. If I remain 
in the world I shall become the slave of ambition, and shall 
pass my life pursuing some chimera of fame, of gold, or of 
high station, restless always, fevered with dissatisfaction, and 
miserable at the last. Better then, surely, to fly, while I 
may, to the quietude and peace of a sanctuary which no 
worldly competitions can disturb, no dreams of aggrandize- 
ment profane, no bitterness of disappointment or of envy 
overshadow. In the world there is ever temptation and 
care ; in the convent there is brotherly love." 

*'Ah, my child!" cried Fra Giuseppe, sadly, "would in- 
deed that you uttered only the truth ; would, indeed, that 
the world were as utterly excluded from our monastery 
walls as you imagine. It is not so I We monks escape, 
perhaps, those pomps and vanities which allure the senses 
of laymen, or even of the secular priesthood, but we are 
not secure from the assaults of our own evil desires. We 
shut out, indeed, the harassing cares and petty vexations 
of domestic life ; we are not fretted with the grinding an- 
noyance of money-getting, nor with the fear of personal 
loss; we are so humbly placed that we cannot fear to 
fall, and the ambitions of the world touch us not. But 
no vows, nor habit, nor walls of stone, can bar from the 
human heart those fatal sins of envy and jealousy from 
which you fain would secure yourself. Beware of seeking 
any refuge from these upon earth. No asylum can shield 
you from a spiritual foe ; no garb, however sacred, defend 
your soul from danger of transgression. He who needs 
vigilance to guard himself from slipping upon the highway 
of the world, will find the narrow footpath scarcely less 
dangerous to his steps. Let such an one look rather to 
the shoes upon his feet, and take good heed that he be 
* shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.' " 

"Father," responded Niccoli, after a moment's thought, 
"I know that you speak in kindness, and that your words 
are wise and truthful. But I am persuaded my vocation 
is from God, and I long to do such valiant war against 
the demon within me as the pressing concerns of a secular 
career would not permit In the silence and seclusion of 
the cloister I shall have leisure to devote to that spiritual 
conflict which is ever raging in my bosom, nor will the 
fiend have so great chance of victory over me, if those 
worldly guerdons and pelf which are his most ready weapons, 
be not at hand to arm him withal.^' 

Long time the good monk continued his argument with 

O 2 



196 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

Niccoli, urging upon him the many difficulties and trials 
of an ecclesiastical life ; but yet the boy remained so firm 
in his desire that at length Fra Giuseppe's kind heart yielded, 
and he promised that evening to seek ah interview with the 
Superior of the monastery, and lay before him the request 
of the two lads to be admitted as novices of the lowest 
degree. Thus, then, was the matter settled for the present, 
and the last words on the subject had scarcely escaped 
the Prate's lips than the hollow, sonorous tongue of a co- 
lossal bell in the convent -tower announced the hour of 
noon, and summoned the Brothers to their frugal meal in 
the refectory. 

" Farewell for the nonce !" cried Fra Giuseppe, hastily pre- 
paring to depart ; " the voice of our noisy tocsin calls me 
away from you, but no doubt we shall soon again meet in 
another friendly conclave. What say you, Messer Vene- 
ziano, — shall we make an appointment for the holding of 
a general council to-morrow evening in this pleasant spot? 
Think you that for an hour or two your friend the Ser 
Castagno will consent to spare you to us, so that we four, 
who are as yet alone in the secret, may discuss at greater 
length and leisure the very solemn hopes and desires 
of which these our children have petitioned us to be the 
arbiters?" 

"For my part," replied Veneziano, with ready cheerful- 
ness, " I shall most willingly present myself, for I am deeply 
interested in the pious design our young friends have formed, 
and am not a little anxious to hear the verdict of the Supe- 
rior upon the matter. As for Andrea," he continued, with 
his wonted sweetness of smile, " he will doubtless entertain 
himself during my absence with some one of those Greek 
or Latin authors whose works he loves to peruse in odd 
moments, and with whose great and wise souls his genius 
gives him a right of kin. Are you agreed, boys," continued 
he, addressing himself to the two students beside him, ** in 
this proposal of the Frate's? Shall I meet you here at 
sunset to-morrow ? " 

"Yes, dear Messer Veneziano," answered Angelo, rapidly 
taking his cue from Niccol6*s gesture of assent, "we will 
both be here at the time appointed. And," added he, drop- 
ping his voice and catching the painter by the hand as he 
moved away, "forget not, I beseech you, to bring your 
lute, that we may close our discourse with some of those 
beautiful hymns of which you know so many." 

" Have no fear on that score, my boy," answered Vene- 
ziano, smiling, "for I always carry my music with me. 
And when I die, my lute shall be found upon my 
heart I" 



THE PAINTER OP VENICE. 




THE PAINTER OF VENICE. I97 

Tn this manner then, and in pleasant anticipation of a 
speedy re-union, the little coterie of friends dispersed. No 
presage of disaster troubled them ; no boding cloud inter- 
cepted the deep sapphire of the still Italian heaven ; no 
whisper of warning in the drowsy summer air foretold an 
impending tempest. Yet not a score of hours divided the 
Ser Veneziano and his companions from the most awful 
event of their lives; an event which was to open for one 
of them the gates of the Unseen Land, and to leave behind 
it for ever upon the pages of Florentine history a stain so 
dark and terrible that even among the many wild ro- 
mances of the fifteenth century, it looms before us a blacker 
and more savage record than any, for it carries with it an 
eternal reproach to genius, — a perpetual shame to human 
gratitude and friendship. 



CHAPTER XI. 

"MINE OWN FAMILIAR FRIEND." 

The hour of sunset was fast approaching. Already a 
flood of ruddy light streaming through the narrow windows 
of the Virgin's chapel illumined its painted walls with mellow 
fire, and scattered upon its marble pavement broken gleams 
of topaz and ruby- coloured glory, touching with finger of 
gold the sculptured architraves of cold white pillar and 
column, and converting the very motes of dust which slowly 
wheeled and circled in its kindling rays to the semblance 
of floating diamonds. 

Veneziano and Castagno, surrounded by various imple- 
ments of their craft, stood, each in front of his panel, brush 
in hand. They had been working thus since noon, and yet, 
as hour by hour the glowing forms they had conceived sprang 
into life beneath the touch of genius, the painters felt neither 
fatigue nor restlessness ; the crawling changes of the day 
passed by unnoticed while they feasted upon the labour they 
loved, and watched its progress with eyes of creative pride 
and affection. 

It was not until the rosy descending light from the west 
gleamed full upon the fresco which Veneziano was occupied 
in painting, that he remembered the lateness of the hour and 
the promise which, on the previous morning, he had made to 
Fra Giuseppe and the two students; and, turning to his 
friend Castagno, he thus interrupted a silence which had 
lasted out the greater part of the afternoon. 

" Andrea, I have an engagement this evening in the glen 



198 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

of Fiesole ; will you pardon me for abandoning you during 
a couple of hours ? I shall be home to supper, and, if you 
please, we will take our symposia together." 

Castagno rolled his sinister eyes upon the simple face of 
his companion, and briefly accepted the invitation, adding 
however, in a tone which seemed to the sensitive Veneziano 
indicative of some disapprobation, " No doubt your engage- 
ment is a friendly tryst with the Dominican friar whom, of 
late, you have so much affected ?" 

" You divine rightly, Andrea," returned Messer Veneziano, 
wiping his brushes upon a palette-cloth as he spoke. " I have 
promised to meet him and his two favourite pupils by the 
brook of Fiesole this evening." 

'•His nephew and that young idiot Niccol6, I suppose," 
growled the other painter. **A more consummate pair of 
suckling fools than those unfortunate boys I never beheld ! 
Monks, children I ascetics in the bud ! I am glad, at least. Do- 
menico, that your studies no longer require the attendance 
of Saint Angelo as model in this artistic haunt of genius !" 

" Nay now, good Andrea," expostulated Veneziano, " some- 
thing has chagrined your humour! Be not so hard upon 
the youths, they deserve none of these ungentle strictures." 

Castagno lifted his shoulders in silent deprecation, retired 
a few paces before his fresco, examined it critically, added 
here and there an effective touch of the brush, and then, 
turning his attention to the result of his companion's labour, 
fell to comparing the two paintings with expressive gestures 
that betokened strong dissatisfaction. 

" Domenico," said he, sharply, " you will always excel me 
in brilliancy ! I cannot produce the richness of colour which 
you command with so much ease. Whence comes the pure 
intensity of this blue mantle upon your figure of the Virgin, 
this luscious depth of madder in the shadows of her fallen 
hair ? I can mix no colours like these." 

" Tis a mere trick," responded Veneziano, readily, "a knack 
of brush which anyone may easily acquire. But what is 
brilliancy compared to the creative power with which nature 
has dowered you^ — a power of design which far surpasses my 
feeble efforts, and should render you superior to all lower 
cravings after styles of tone or detail. Yours is the higher 
gift by far, for you have a sweep of hand and a conceptive 
faculty which I can never hope to attain." 

Castagno turned away morosely. "Flattery!" said he, in 
a low hoarse voice. "I do not ask for that at your lips, 
Domenico of Venice ! And, talk as you please on the matter, 
you will not pretend to deny, I suppose, that Cosmo de' 
Medici and his noble companions found more to admire and 
praise in your frescoes than in mine. Colour pleased their 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 1 99 

eyes ; design was passed by unnoticed. And these men are 
cognoscenti in art I" 

"You are bitter, Andrea; you permit your heart to be 
moved too easily. Know you not that princes oftentimes 
award their praises in inverse proportion to their real judg- 
ment, and are frequently most sparing of their commenda- 
tions where most their taste is captivated ? And, be that as 
it may, it is hardly for me to remind you, my friend, that the 
true artist labours not for requital at the lips of men, but for 
pure love of art, and for the reward which Heaven only is 
great and high enough to bestow upon genius." 

An angry smile mantled the sunken olive cheeks of Andrea 
del Castagno, and faded into that unprepossessing sneer of 
contempt, which appeared to be his most habitual expression. 

" It is not difficult for you to enunciate that theory," quoth 
he, returning to his work, " for you are the favoured artist ; 
and he with whom the world wags well is always ready to 
sing psalms. Is that panel of yours finished, Domenico V 

** No," replied the other, putting up his colours and pencils, 
" none of my work can boast of completion yet. But a few 
days' industry will end the business, I fancy. The lights of 
the flesh-tints require heightening, before the full effect 
which I mean to produce can be accomplished. See," cried 
he, seizing Castagno by the arm while the deep enthusiasm 
inspired by the love of his art filled as with a glory the sunken 
wells of his Italian eyes, and the withered hollows of a face 
from which the freshnes^ and energy of youth had long since 
passed, — "see here I" I shall add to this crimson drapery of 
the Madonna's robe a reflected light, to give it sharper pro- 
minence against the cool grey of the angel's wing behind ; 
and there yonder, the tumbled masses of the Magdalen's 
yellow hair must be touched with a brushful or two of 
a colour whose value for effects of golden brilliance I have 
but lately learned. You, too, shall know the secret, Andrea ; 
'tis a veritable marvel of our art, — one's pencil seems dipped 
in sunlight when loaded with this wondrous tint I" 

"Cease, cease, for God's sake!" cried Castagno, twisting 
himself free of Veneziano's grasp, " you drive me mad ! you 
goad me to desperation ! Would that no Medician patron of 
our craft had thus closely associated us in the adornment of 
his chapel ; would that no fatal invitation had bidden us thus 
recklessly to Florence, and, in an evil hour, confided the 
execution of these cursed frescoes to our mutual labour ! Ah, 
that I had burned the deadly paper which committed to me 
the partnership in this miserable work! ah, that you had 
died on the day you, too, accepted it! Domenico! Domenico! 
my demon overpowers me! Save me, preserve me from 
his malice!" 



200 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

He sank into a chair which was placed in front of the 
painted walls, and covered his face with his quivering hands. 
Gently Veneziano bent over his friend and whispered some 
broken words of consolation. "You have toiled too long, 
dear Andrea," said he ; " your brain is overwrought, you need 
repose. Come out with me into the open air ; perchance the 
breath of the sunset-hour and the music of my lute may 
revive your spirit, and restore you to your truer self. Rise, 
Andrea, — let us be going, — remember I must keep my en- 
gagement with the Frate." 

But Castagno, with averted face, repulsed him. 

" Go," murmured he, " I seek not to detain you here ; but 
I cannot accompany you, I am too ill to walk to-night ; 
besides, my day's portion of work is still unfinished. I must 
add yet another tint to the thorn-wreath on the brows of my 
dying Christ before the colour dries, and then I shall go 
slowly home to await your arrival. Fear nothing for me," 
continued he, seeing that Domenico hesitated in his depar- 
ture, " 'twas but a momentary fit of the vapours, and I am 
already recovering myself. Go, I shall be better alone." 

"Farewell then, Andrea," replied the guileless Venetian. 
" I yield to your desire for solitude, not to my own selfish 
inclination, in thus abandoning my friend. But if you 
should again require my assistance, despatch a messenger 
to the valley of Fiesole ; he will find me there with the 
Fra Giuseppe. For your sake I shall make the interview 
as brief as possible." 

And with lingering steps the Venetian painter quitted the 
sacred atelier. 



CHAPTER XII. 

BY THE CASTELLO GIOBATISTA. 

" It is fully an hour since sundown," said Angelo, address- 
ing Fra Giuseppe and his fellow-student, " and yet the Ser 
Veneziano tarries ! What can have become of him ?" 

The clear purple twilight of a southern summer was gather- 
ing about the little group in the romantic dell of Fiesole, and 
a drowsy haze — half evening mist, half halo of reflected 
glow from the lately resplendent west — crept along the 
distant landscape, and shrouded the grey towers of the 
Dominican cloister. Fra Giuseppe and his two pupils had 
been laudably punctual to the appointment at sunset, and 
for a short time after their meeting were well enough dis- 
posed to accord the painter reasonable grace while they 
beguiled their waiting-moments with general discourse ; but 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 20I 

by-and-by, when the monastery chimes had announced the 
flight of three successive quarters, a spirit of trepidation and 
anxiety visibly disturbed the small assembly, and even the 
triumphant satisfaction disseminated by the Prate's account 
of his successful interview with the Superior on behalf of his 
youthful clients, had no longer power to check their dis- 
appointment at the continued absence of Messer Veneziano. 

"It is but half-an-hour*s walk from the chapel to this 
spot," ruminated Niccol6 in discontented tones, " and if our 
friend had started at sunset he would have arrived here long 
ago I Some unforeseen accident must have delayed him/' 

" I will run towards the city," cried the other boy, leaping 
to his feet, " perhaps the man with the yellow vest may have 
met and detained him on the way." And Angelo darted 
swiftly off upon his errand, and was soon lost to sight in the 
deepening twilight. 

After a short silence, Fra Giuseppe and his remaining 
companion fell again into a desultory conversation concerning 
the various difficulties and obstacles incidental to the career 
of undowered neophytes ; and the Frate was deep in the 
relation of his own early trials under similar circumstances, 
when a shrill cry, apparently issuing from a spot some two 
hundred yards down the course of the stream, suddenly 
interrupted the progress of the monk's discourse. 

" Uncle ! Niccol6 !" shrieked the voice, in accents of horror 
and consternation, " help — hasten for the love of God I The 
Ser Veneziano is murdered I " 

Following the direction of this appalling cry, the student 
and his preceptor rapidly quitted the shadows of their fa- 
vourite retreat, crossed with as much precipitation the open 
ground beyond, and halted, breathless and dismayed, under 
the high blank wall of a fortress known as the "Castello 
Giobatista," immediately outside the city. 

Here the clear soft light of the Italian evening revealed 
a scene as inexplicable as it was disastrous ; a scene which 
struck fervid terror to the boyish heart of Niccol6, and filled 
the more experienced bosom of the monk beside him with 
sensations of alarm and excitement unknown to him for 
many a long, quiet year. Upon the turfed sloping margin 
of the castle fosse, full in the weird light of the rising moon, 
lay the motionless figure of the Venetian painter, his un- 
covered head supported upon the knees of Angelo, who, 
with face and lips scarcely less white than those of the 
prostrate man, was bending over him, and vainly striving 
to recall him to consciousness. 

"Mother of God!" ejaculated the Frate, aghast at the 
awful sight, "who did this? how did it happen.^ — what is 
the nieaning of it ?" 



202 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

" I know nothing," responded Angelo, in a low, horrified 
whisper; "he lay thus when I found him, — ^a low moan 
only attracted me to the spot. Is it possible any one can 
have assaulted so good and gentle a man as the Ser Dome- 
nico ? O, uncle Giuseppe ! for Christ's sake come hither and 
bind his head, — see, it is almost cleft in twain ! — my vest is 
drenched with blood !" He started back as he uttered the 
cry, unable to control his terror, and pointed with a trembling 
hand to a dark, shining stream which slowly oozed from the 
wounded temples of the insensible Venetian. Fra Giuseppe's 
surgical knowledge stood him in good stead at this critical 
moment, and his manly presence of mind fortified the quail* 
ing spirits of his younger companions. 

" Quick," cried he, snatching Niccol6's cap from his head 
and thrusting it into the hand of its owner, " hasten to the 
rivulet, fill this with water, and bring it hither as fast as 
possible." 

While Niccol6 obeyed, the monk hastily tore into strips 
a kerchief which Angelo produced at his uncle's bidding, 
and with which, having dipped it in the water Niccol6 
brought, he proceeded to bandage the forehead of his patient 
Monks in the old days were often well-instructed in the art 
of medicine, and many of the best physicians and herbalists 
were to be found, as we have already hinted in our earlier 
pages, among the ranks of the religious Orders ; nor, indeed, 
are we of the nineteenth century more indebted for Art's sake 
to the medieval painters and poets, than to the cowled eccle- 
siastics of the same rich age, for the "culte" and preserva- 
tion of science. In all countries, the cloister has ever been 
the home of students and the nursery of learning ; — astro- 
nomy, music, literature, and medicine, — all these were nou- 
rished in their growth by the successors of Bede and Alcuin ; 
a fact apparently ignored by the present generation, at once 
so intolerant of monasticism and so proud of its Bible, which, 
but for the jealous care and unwearying labour guaranteed 
by that very monasticism, would never have been preserved 
for the enlightenment of Queen Victoria's subjects. For, in 
the turbulent middle ages, when warfare was the occupation 
of the many, and the fine arts of the few ; when all manu- 
facture was really hand-work, and the utter lack of machi- 
nery and steam-pressure necessitated the employment of 
a hundred artizans where now a dozen suffice ; — ^when the 
transit of merchandise was tardy, commerce difficult, free 
trade among the nations impracticable, and printing a thing 
unknown ; few among the laity had either sufficient time 
or manual dexterity to undertake the arduous and delicate 
task of transcribing the Scriptures, while to the monks this 
sacred work was at once an avocation and an ecclesiastical 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 203 

duty. The invention of the printing-press, and the adoption 
of the new art by members of the secular community, was 
therefore the severest blow ever dealt upon the head and 
front of monasticism, since it effectually rent from the hands 
of the ** religious," not only the chief weapon of their power 
over the people, but the very stay and solace of their solitary 
hours. So surely does every fresh discovery and application 
of the strength of the Ogre Mechanism become the means 
of filching occupation and existence from thousands ; and 
while disseminating knowledge and luxury among poor and 
rich, still realizes the old nursery legend of its devouring kin, 
and ever as the years roll on, continues to ply with cease- 
less hand its iron mill, and grinds the bones of Art to make 
its bread. 

So whirl the changes of the times, so also we shift and 
mingle as they turn ! 

But while we have been indulging in this romantic 
monody over the Past, what have the skill and promptitude 
of the brother Giuseppe accomplished towards the recovery 
of Messer Veneziano ? Alas, it would need a cunning leech, 
in truth, to restore to that stricken victim the life and con- 
sciousness which were his but one short hour ago! For 
a brief space, indeed, the cool touch of the water upon his 
brow revives him ; the languid pulses throb again, the closed 
eyelids quiver, and from the white lips comes a single word, 
repeated twice in accents of terrible pathos. With hushed 
breath and expectant faces, the friends about him stoop to 
catch the faintly-murmured sounds. 

"Andrea! Andrea!" 

Fra Giuseppe leans forward and addresses himself in low 
tones to Angelo. 

" He wants his friend, — Andrea del Castagno. Help me 
to move his head from your knees to mine, and I will remain 
here with him while you and Niccol6 hasten tp the chapel of 
the Santa Maria to fetch the Ser Castagno hither. But 
listen ; — in an hour's time the city gates will be shut, and 
we must lose no time in getting our poor friend into shelter. 
Let Niccoli call at his home — you pass it on your way to the 
chapel — and tell his brother Paolo to bring us a litter as 
quickly as possible. Be speedy on your errands, my child ; 
the time ebbs fast, and his life goes with it 1" 

The two boys needed no second adjuration ; the wind 
itself could scarce have outstripped their rapid steps. Fra 
Giuseppe sat alone with the wounded painter, in the very 
heart of a light so weird and solemn, a silence so profound, 
and a scene so strangely awful, that the circumstances might 
well have appalled the soul of a stouter hero than that of the 
good friar. Fra Giuseppe, however, was not a man to be 



204 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

easily dismayed Earnest religion and unwavering faith 
supplied him with a greater courage than belonged to most 
Italians in that age of superstition and fear. As he bent 
over the sufferer, alternately moistening the stony lips and 
chafing the cold hands, it occurred to him that a search 
after the instrument which had wrought so grievous a disaster 
might not just then be altogether a useless or unsatisfactory 
employment It was evident at the outset, that the deep 
gash upon Veneziano's forehead had been caused by a 
forcible blow from some blunt weapon, which had fractured 
the skull and so fearfully injured the brain, that the Prate's 
medical knowledge left him no hope of his patient's ulti- 
mate recovery. Nevertheless, it would be well, thought 
the Frate, to ascertain, if possible, whether this fatality 
were the result of an accident or of an assassin's attack ; 
and if the latter, whether any clue remained near the scene 
of the murder which might serve to assist in detecting 
the criminal. No knife, no dagger had dealt the blow, 
nor was it, as the friar opined, the effect of a heavy stone 
flung from a distance; but probably of some implement 
struck over Veneziano's forehead from behind him, and 
with a force which indicated intense passion or malice as 
the actuating motive of the murderer. And indeed this 
hypothesis seemed the more likely to be correct, on account 
of the extreme celerity and silence with which the deed must 
have been perpetrated. Nowhere was there the least sign of 
a struggle — the soil was undisturbed — the maestro*s dress 
bore no marks of violence or disorder ; nor could the friar 
recollect that the slightest sound of cry or confusion had in- 
terrupted the conversation below the hill until Angelo himself 
gave the alarm. Or, if a casualty had occurred, then the 
painter must have stumbled over a large rock or mass of 
granite — perhaps of iron, — substances for which the monk's 
keen eyes vainly searched the smooth sides of the fosse, 
where scarce a flint or pebble broke the even regularity 
of soft, rounded turf. Stay, what is this ? Something gleams 
dully in the gloaming light a few paces off, — something 
thrown carelessly down beside a tuft of blood-stained grass, 
— something with jagged edges and a crooked centre, that 
seems as though a heavy blow had bent and doubled it. 

Fra Giuseppe lays his burden softly upon the turf, rises 
quietly, and picks up the gleaming object It is a piece of 
lead, about the thickness of a thin plank, and looks as though 
it had been hurriedly torn from a sheet of the same metal, or 
as if it had formed part of a case or portfolio. Dear God ! 
a terrible suspicion flashes across the Frate's mind, for he 
knows that it is in leaden cases, just such as that from which 
this crumpled fragment appears to have been wrenched, that 



OF VENICE. 




THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 20$ 

travelling painters are accustomed to carry and preserve their 
unfinished canvases and sketches. Sharply he turns and 
glances at the motionless figure on the ground. No ; from 
the position of the wound and of the prostrate body, it is 
evident enough that suicide cannot have been committed. Nor 
is it possible that so good and simple-hearted a man as the 
Venetian painter should have thus laid violent hands on 
himself in the very hour of his greatest fame and triumph, — 
in the very zenith of his fortune, — in the full-shining of his 
happiest star ! Far more probable, that in this lonely place 
— at this still hour of twilight, some envious brother-artist, 
following Domenico with stealthy steps and hatred in his 
heart, may have 

Fra Giuseppe drops the instrument of death in sudden 
horror and crosses himself, as a man might do who feels the 
presence of some hideous fiend he dares not face. Is this 
awful event, indeed, a fulfilment of his own dark prognostica- 
tions concerning the real character of Andrea del Castagno ? 

But a slight movement of Veneziano*s hand, and the sound 
of a low cry, recall the friar's bewildered thoughts ; he pushes 
the fragment of lead aside with his foot into the knot of grass 
behind which it was before hidden, and hastens again to the 
relief of the dying painter. Alas ! how terrible is this un- 
broken stillness, how unearthly the glamour of the white 
ascending moon that bathes with its eerie luminance the 
lifeless form stretched on the margin of the dyke, and 
blanches to a yet more ghastly pallor the upturned marble 
face, with its closed eyes and bandaged temples ! How 
slowly the time passes by ; how long the messengers tarry ; 
— the world seems indeed to be standing still with poor, 
anxious, tormented Fra Giuseppe ! 

That was a step at last, surely! Yes, another follows, 
voices murmur together in subdued tones, approaching forms 
loom darkly through the purple shadows yonder! Thank 
God, the lonely watch is ended, — assistance and companion- 
ship are near at hand ! 



CHAPTER XIII. 

"FOR EVER AND EVER." 

Five shapes, indistinct at first under the shadow of the 
castle wall, drew near the scene of the murder. 

Foremost came Andrea del Castagno, walking alone, 
and behind him the two students conducting Niccol6*s bro- 
thers, Baldassare and Paolo, who bore between them a litter 
covered with grey cloth, and resembling in fashion the 



§ 



206 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

modern bier, which in some southern countries is used for 
the purpose of conveying corpses to the place of burial. 

As Castagno approached, Fra Giuseppe instinctively shrank 
before him ; but the former, unheeding this mark of repug- 
nance on the part of the old friar, and apparently oblivious 
of all else than his friend, threw himself despondently on 
his knees, and embraced the lifeless frame with gestures of 
ardent affection and frenzied sorrow. 

" Where did you find him ?'* whispered the monk, sus- 
piciously, in the ear of his terrified nephew. 

" Find him, — find the Ser Castagno ? — why at work in the 
chapel, where you told me to go for him !" answered Angelo 
in the same hurried tone. 

•* At work !" repeated the monk in his turn, with a puz- 
zled expression of countenance, — "at work in the chapel? 
Strange !" 

Angelo mistook, as well he might, the cause of his uncle's 
perplexity, and interpreting it in the only sense obvious to 
his perceptions, hastened to amend his foregoing statement 
with a whispered explanation. 

" It was hardly dark in the chapel, uncle," said he, " and 
besides, Messer Castagno had lighted the tapers to work by. 
I suppose he was anxious to get his frescoes done: — you 
know the Ser Veneziano — (oh uncle, — it was only the other 
day!) — told you his would be completed in about a week. 
No doubt therefore ." 

But Fra Giuseppe turned away before the sentence could be 
concluded, and addressed himself somewhat grimly to the 
new comer, who during this short colloquy had been seated 
on the margin of the castle fosse, abandoning himself to 
tears and lamentations over his wounded colleague. 

" Messer del Castagno," quoth the Frate, ** let us waste no 
time in these futile demonstrations of grief, — they will close 
the city gates ere long." 

"Nay, nay!" cried Andrea, displaying all the tokens of 
a lively sorrow, "to lift him now would be to murder him 
outright. Think you he could endure the miserable jolting 
of yonder wooden bier ?" 

" As for the murdering of him," muttered Paolo, bluntly, 
" I think that part of the business seems to have been effected 
pretty completely already ! Alack, — look there ! scarce any 
life is left in his body !" 

For, as he uttered these last words, Castagno raised the 
dying man in his arms, and the wound burst out anew 
beneath the ligature of the bandage, letting a few slow, 
heavy drops of blood ooze darkly through the linen folds, 
and fall on the jewelled hand with which Andrea sup- 
ported him. 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 20/ 

" I faint," whispered the marble lips; — " water !" Instantly 
Fra Giuseppe was beside his friend, but all his affectionate 
care and professional science could but revive the wasting 
flame and flickering pulse for a few brief minutes : the clear 
fire of that generous life was fast burning out, the throbs 
of that true simple heart came slow and feeble now. 

Heavily Ser Domenico raised his eyes, which already the 
mists of death were veiling, and fixed his gaze upon the fair 
tearful face of his former model, who stood silent with Niccol6 
at the feet of the dying master. He beckoned them to ap- 
proach; and with an expressive gesture, softly laid a hand 
of each within his own clasped palms. 

" Boys," said he in low tones of intense earnestness, his 
lifted eyes still fastened on their sorrowful faces, — " have you 
forgiven each other, — ^are you friends from your hearts !" 

" Yes, yes, dearest Messer Domenico, — from our hearts ! " 

"No longer jealous of each other? — cherishing no secret 
bitterness, — nursing no malice under the guise of a mutual 
love r 

He looked intently into Niccol6*s pallid face. 

"No, no; — true friends, — God knows it, — reconciled for 
evermore!" 

"It is well," murmured the painter, sinking back again 
with closed eyes ; " better is an open adversary than a friend 
that is false !" 

For a moment his soul lingered upon the threshold of its 
earthly house; he extended his hand to the Frate, and 
signed to him his wish for absolution. There followed a low, 
muttered prayer, a few inaudible words, — a solemn bene- 
diction; — then the fire sank, — the feeble pulses ceased. 
Upon his placid face and weary eyelids came the shadow of 
that darkest, stillest Night, which ever heralds the dawn of 
the eternal Day. 

Among the awe-stricken witnesses of this strange and 
terrible tragedy, Fra Giuseppe was first to break the spell 
of fear and sorrow. 

"It is over," said he, in a quiet, serene voice; — "he is 
dead. Angelo, — Niccol^y — assist me to lift the body upon 
the litter. Tis the last service we shall be able to render 
him on earth." 

The good Frate could not find it in his heart to ask help 
at the hands of Andrea del Castagno. 

In reverent silence Fra Giuseppe and his pupils lifted the 
corpse of the painter-minstrel from the ground, and laid him 
gently on the bier, in the full clear glory of the solemn moon. 
With the movement, the thick folds of a mantle in which 
Veneziano had been wont to envelope himself after the 



208 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

fashion of mediaeval times, fell heavily aside, and within 
it, upon the stilled heart of the wearer, the pale light touched 
with its ghostly kiss the silver-shining strings of a lute, — 
beloved and treasured for many a happy rolling year, — 
silenced henceforth for evermore ! 



CHAPTER XIV. 

WINTER AT FIESOLE. 

The desired hour had well-nigh arrived : Angelo and his 
friend were about to be received as novices into the con- 
fraternity of the Dominican cloister. It was close upon 
Christmas-tide ; bleak roving winds and bitter frosts desolated 
the vale of Fiesole, fetters of ice restrained the impatient 
waters of the winding Mugnone, and where but a few month3 
since flowers and ferns had bloomed in rich profusion, the 
hardy reeds and bulrushes alone survived to rear their dingy 
heads above the shallows, and breathe pathetic dirges along 
the blasts that heralded the snow-storm. 

Within the monastery there was warmth and comfort, and 
the gleaming light of burning pine-logs. In a small room 
with narrow grille-windows, adjoining the refectory, Fra 
Giuseppe sat with the two neophytes- elect, in the ruddy glow 
of a blazing fire. To-morrow had been chosen by the frati 
as the all-important day which should witness the formal 
admission of these youths into the Brotherhood, — a day 
much desired and long anticipated, — a day which was to 
mark for Angelo and his fellow-student the era of a new 
birth, the beginning of another and as yet an untried path 
in life. 

This afternoon the trio had held a last meeting upon the 
threshold, as it seemed to them, of the old boyish days, 
lingering there and looking back upon the past with love, 
ere they started together upon the heavenward pilgrimage 
before them. 

Seldom, since the tragedy of the disastrous night recorded 
in the last chapter, had either of the students referred at any 
length to the mysterious death of the Venetian maestro ; — 
a few brief words of sorrow, spoken whenever his name was 
mentioned between them ; an instinctive silence of affec- 
tionate regret whenever they passed the dark walls of the 
Castcllo Giobatista, — these only had betokened the tender 
grief which moved their hearts for the fate of their lost friend, 
and the reverent respect in which they held his memory. 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 209 

But now, ere they buried the dead of the Past ; now, ere 
the veil of the cloister dropped upon the shadows of their 
former life, Angelo had nerved himself to speak unreservedly 
of that fatal tryst, and of the mystery which had ever en- 
shrouded it, baffling in its strangle impenetrability the acumen 
both of justice and of curiosity. 

" Uncle," said the youth in slow grave tones, — " in those 
last minutes of the Ser Veneziano*s life, — brief minutes even 
though they were, — surely you must have asked him who 
it was that had wrought so horrible a crime? — some word 
must have escaped him — some faint sign or whisper must 
at least have suggested the motive, if not the identity of his 
murderer?" 

"In truth, my son," replied the monk, in the same grave 
voice, "I certainly hazarded the question before bestowing 
absolution; but he only answered me that he had fallen 
not by his own hand, but by that of an enemy. And when 
I asked him further to name this enemy to me, — even were 
it under the seal of confession, no voice reached my ears 
in return. He died with the secret hidden in his generous 
souL" 

"And the piece of lead you found. Father?" — said Niccol6, 
interrogatively. 

"Was gone when I came back again to look for it, my son; 
some one had carried it away, — no doubt designedly. Had 
I but stood in any other position than that which it is the 
will of God I should occupy, a sense of duty and of justice 
would have urged me to sift to the bottom so extraordinary 
and foul a mystery. But my office is that of consoler and 
priest, not of judge or avenger ; and so also my director bade 
me recollect, when in the confessional I laid my doubts before 
him. My vow of obedience therefore, as well as the voice 
of my conscience, withholds me from an investigation which 
natural indignation and personal friendship would have led 
me to prosecute with vehement resolution." 

Fra Giuseppe sighed. 

" Father," asked Niccol6, quickly, — " have you a sus- 
picion 

"Child," interrupted the monk with a sudden gesture of 
interdiction, — ** any question but that ! I dare not answer it ! 
All suspicions are forbidden to me; lest, unknowing, my 
heart should accuse an innocent man." 

A shadow darkened his thoughtful face; he crossed him- 
self, and murmured a penitential ** Ave." 

" And so, after all," quoth Angelo in a reflective tone, as 
he rose to take his farewell, — " after all, Messer Veneziano's 
frescoes will never be completed !" 

"Never!" echoed Fra Giuseppe. 



210 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 



CHAPTER XV. 



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 



Late in the evening of a certain fair and stilly Italian day, 
towards the close of the year 1483, two monks of the Order 
of S. Dominic were summoned to attend the last hours of an 
aged man, whose godless career and misused genius had 
gained him everywhere an infamous renown. The two Frati, 
both of them men in the prime of life, were curiously unlike 
each other in face and bearing. Upon the sweet delicate 
features of the taller and more slender Brother was an ex- 
pression of repose and pathos, such as one might imagine 
in the countenance of S. Francis of Sales, — the apostle of 
the " Philothea ;" and his whole demeanour bespoke an ex- 
cessive gentleness, bom not of monastic restraint or personal 
suffering, but the natural habit of a dreamy mind. His 
companion, on the contrary, seemed moulded after the type 
of the inflexible S. Jerome ; every line and curve of his clear- 
cut profile announced the soldier of Christ ; indomitable in 
energy, fervent in spirit, decisive in judgment. To one of 
these men life was but a sweet dream of Paradise, a shadowy 
garden outlying the realities of the Eternal City ; a sombre 
tranquil twilight forerunning the glories of a transcendent 
sunrise : — to the other it was a stern and earnest warfare, 
a wrestling with principalities and powers, a perilous keeping 
of the Master's house against midnight thieves ; a breathless 
pressing towards the mark of everlasting reward. Yet it 
was no secret in the monastery that between these two 
brothers existed the friendship of David and Jonathan ; and 
that their hearts, so dissimilar in natural emotions and senti- 
ments, were nevertheless united in an indissoluble tie of firm 
and tender love. Twenty years they had dwelt together in 
the religious solitude of the Dominican cloister, together they 
had entered it as novices, together they had professed and 
assumed the full habit of the Order, and now in their pious 
labours among sick and dying they were rarely separated. 
On the occasion of their present errand, they bore with them 
to the house of the penitent who sought their aid the sacred 
Host and the holy oil used in the administration of Extreme 
Unction ; for the messenger who had summoned them re- 
ported his master to be upon the point of death, and griev- 
ously disturbed in conscience. 

With rapid steps the two Frati silently followed their guide 
through a score of dark winding streets, above the gabled 
house-roofs of which the stars already began to burn in the 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 211 

far-off vault of space ; noiselessly they ascended the steps of 
a dreary palatial old tenement pointed out as their destina- 
tion, and entered almost immediately the gloomy chamber of 
the dying maestro, — Andrea ' degli Impiccati */ 

He lay upon a handsomely draped couch, his white head 
supported on embroidered pillows; — a man upon whose 
ghastly olive face disease and age had ploughed deep furrows, 
hollowing the sallow cheeks, tightening the thin lips, and 
tracing upon the broad prominent forehead line above line 
of care and wearing thought. 

As the Brothers silently lifted the heavy crimson curtain 
from the doorway and approached the bed, he made an 
effort to raise himself on his elbow; but his feeble powers 
proved insufficient to sustain so trying an attitude, and he 
sank back again with an impatient moan, beckoning the 
two Dominicans to his side. 

"What are your names, monks.?" he demanded abruptly 
in a deep hollow whisper, which, if the dead could speak, 
might well have fitted the lips of a corpse. 

" We are the Brothers Michael and Raffael, my son ;" 
answered the fairer and slighter of the Frati. " It is your 
desire, no doubt, to seek the consolation of the Church, and 
to unburden your soul of its past sins, ere you enter upon 
the valley of shadows. Speak without reserve, — he whom 
you select as your confessor shall remain with you here, 
while the other retires for a short space to secure you the 
greater privacy." 

"I seek no privacy, monk," pursued the hoarse whisper, 
" nor do I desire the consolation of your Church. Remove 
from me your altar-god and your oil-cans, I want no viaticum 
at the hands of friar or of angel, although both characters 
should be combined in you and your hooded helpmate. Had 
I any kinsfolk, — ^any friends to summon hither to my dying 
couch, I would have bidden them come instead of you, to 
hear the story of my former life, — its temptations, its passions, 
its black and treacherous sin; so little privacy I seek, so 
little concealment I court, in this my last extremity." 

The terrible voice paused, a ghastly smile contorted for 
a moment the sharp, stony features, and then passed, more 
like a shadow than a smile, to leave again only the hard 
relentless expression they had worn before. 

Fra Raffaelo seized the favourable pause, and in sweet 
feminine tones, to which the soft Italian language lent 

* Andrea del Castagno earned this strange surname — ^Andrea of the Hanged — 
on account of his famous picture upon the fa9ade of the Podestii palace, — a picture 
which represented the murderers of Guliano de' Medici suspended by the heels in 
a curious and horrible variety of attitudes. This weird picture was Andrea's 
masterpiece, and was painted in the year 1478. — Vasari's Viie del PUtori^ and 
Baldinucci's NotizU dei Professori dd Dis^gno. 

P 2 



212 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

a double charm, besought the dying maestro to re-consider 
his fatal resolution. 

" Have faith, my son,** he pleaded ; " there is One Who 
saveth to the uttermost One Whose grace and pity never 
fail, even at the eleventh hour of a wasted life !" 

Castagno rolled his implacable glittering eyes upon the 
speaker. 

"Monk,** said he, "Andrea degli Impiccati is no coward. 
Seventy years I have served my master the Devil, and now 
I go to receive the wages he gives his servants. Shall 
I mock the Master I never served, by basely claimii^^ at 
His hands a reward I have not earned, a reward I scorned 
to work for, when health and power and genius were mine, 
to bestow them how and where I chose } Not so, — ^by my 
own labours, by my own life I stand or fall ; I take the 
penny for which I bargained. I die at my post as a man 
should die, neither flinching from the stroke of the enemy's 
sword, nor deserting the standard I have followed through 
the war. Vainly, therefore, you solicit me to forsake my 
colours now, or to insult with the offer of a brief hour's 
service that God Whom I have contemned and defied for 
more than threescore years !" 

Sternly the voice of the second Brother interposed. 

"Wherefore then, Andrea del Castagno," he demanded, 
" hast thou summoned us hither to thy dying couch ? Re- 
frain, at least, thine impious tongue from reviling the Lord 
Who died for thee, whilst thou speakest in the presence of 
His servants. What seekest thou at our hands ?" 

"I would have you hear," rejoined the maestro, "ere 
I lose the power of speech, the story of the only crime of my 
life which has escaped the discernment of human inquisitors ; 
a crime so black and perfidious, that its single enormity out- 
weighs the whole collected guilt of all my other sins, and in 
this my hour of doom oppresses me so heavily with its dire 
remembrance, that I dare not conceal it longer. It must be 
told therefore, not in penitence, not in fear, nor even in regret, 
but because my spirit is grown too weak to preserve its secret 
longer, and seeks the relief which words alone can afford. 
To you, monks and ascetics though you be, I have chosen to 
make this discovery, because no relatives of mine are here to 
attend my call, and because the chief witness of the crime 
I am about to reveal was an aged recluse of the Dominican 
confraternity, who must long ago have put aside his cowl and 
cord for a more radiant garb in the courts of the New Jeru- 
salem. Were it possible he could be yet surviving on earth, 
I would have sent for him by name; as it is, I chose to 
summon at random any Brother of the same Order who 
might be able to present himself. Your Prior, with infinite 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 21 3 

consideration for my frailty, has provided me with two con- 
fessors ; I appreciate his zealous care, and duly avail myself 
of the double honour. Now hear me; — for I have scrupu- 
lously satisfied your ecclesiastical curiosity touching my 
motives for this confession, and I claim a right to your 
patient hearing of it. 

" Twenty years ago, the invitation of Cosmo de* Medicis 
associated me with Domenico of Venice in the work of adorn- 
ing the chapel of the Santa Maria Novella. My colleague 
was master of a great secret which I longed to possess, the 
secret of a new and marvellous art, transcending in import- 
ance and effect all the former discoveries of our sublime 
calling. At first I found the Venetian loth to make me 
partner in his cherished knowledge, and I honoured his 
scruples in my heart, even while I resolved to overcome 
them ; for I felt that could we but have changed places with 
each other, prayers and threats alike should have found me 
adamant. But this Venetian was a weak, inconstant fool, 
unworthy of the priceless treasure he held ; — in an evil hour 
he yielded to my importunity, he disclosed to me the secret 
I desired, he taught me the art I coveted, he cast his pre- 
cious pearl before my feet, and like the swine in your parable, 
I turned again and rent him without mercy! My object 
once acquired, I waited only an opportunity to remove from 
my path this detestable colleague, whom I had always re- 
garded with the bitterest jealousy, and who now, being 
useless to me, I not only hated as a rival, but scorned as 
a broken tool. I need not tell you, monks, how simple and 
unsuspecting a man this fellow was, nor how he fostered by 
his religious faith and piety the natural childishness of his 
character. For you may well believe that had he possessed 
any d^^ee of penetration or of common sense, he would 
never have been deceived by the flimsy friendship I pretended 
for him, a pretence convenient enough to me, since it gave 
me occasion to be constantly in his society, and thus, when 
Fate should favour my plan, to strike the more quickly and 
securely. Meanwhile I sought every means possible of re- 
tarding his work and frustrating his designs. The Dominican 
Brother of whom I spoke to you was my colleague's friend ; 
and had a nephew of about sixteen, whose fair face and 
figure attracted the Venetian's admiration, and determined 
him to introduce the boy as a ministering angel in one of 
the chapel frescoes. Already the new model had attended 
several times at the Santa Maria, and the sketch was fast 
advancing, when by chance I discovered that the youth had 
an enemy among his school-fellows, — a rival who hated him 
on account of his superior beauty, as I hated the Venetian 
for his superior knowledge and power. A strange sympathy 



f 




214 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

drew me towards this jealous child ; I sought to make friends 
with him as my colleague had done with his school-mate, 
and before long it occurred to me that by a judicious appeal 
to his envy I might incite my young acquaintance, who was 
by far the stronger and bigger of the two boys, to engage in 
an open hand-to-hand fight with his pretty rival. If such 
a battle could be brought about, I knew that the Venetian's 
model would be certainly worsted, and his beauty so effec- 
tually marred, that for weeks to come he would be quite 
useless in the studio ; a result which would for just so long 
oblige my colleague to suspend his work, and so prevent 
one of his chief frescoes from attaining completion before the 
visit of Cosmo de' Medicis and his friends, who were then 
daily expected to fix a date for making their first formal 
inspection of the new paintings. In this attempt, however, I 
failed ; some scruples, — not of cowardice however, — appeared 
to dissuade my prot^g^ from the revenge I proposed to him ; 
— the frescoes progressed uninterruptedly, and the Florentine 
princes came to view them. With one consent, with one 
voice, they gave the palm of superiority to the paintings 
of the Venetian ! Such depth of colour, — such perfect chiaro^ 
scuro — such faithful perspective as his had never before been 
seen ! My designs perhaps were better, — yes, — but where 
was the brilliance on my plaster, — where the vivid lights, — 
the softened shadows } I heard, I witnessed his triumph, 
and the fire of jealousy rent my heart with its fierce fiames ! 
Now that Domenico of Venice had yielded to me his secret, 
— now that I, too, had learnt the glorious art of oil-painting, 
— he who had been my instructor and my friend only re- 
mained to bar my path to fame and to embitter my future 
greatness ! I swore to sacrifice him to the divinity of my 
genius ; I resolved to be his assassin ! None should stand 
between me and my apotheosis ; none who had been preferred 
before me should live to blight my career! Fate, who is 
a wicked goddess, favoured my malignity. One evening, as 
our work grew towards the finish, my colleague told me he 
had engaged to meet his friend, — that old monk of whom 
I have already spoken, — in a glen outside the town. Their 
meeting was fixed for the hour of sunset. Before the Vene- 
tian left me he shewed me his work, and boasted of a new 
discovery he had lately made, — ^vaunted the wondrous pro- 
perties of some new pigment which was to excel all other 
colours in virtue and brilliance. I looked in despair at his 
glowing panel, already fervent with a life and tenderness 
which I could never produce, and my demon whispered me 
to delay no longer the climax of my jealous malice. My 
rage overcame me, my face changed, and the Venetian 
fancied I was ill. He urged me to go out with him into the 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 




THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 21$ 

open air, believing me to be over-tired with my work ; but 
I refused to accompany him, and pleaded that I had yet 
to complete a certain part of my fresco which I pointed out 
to him. However, as soon as he was gone, I started after 
him by another route, overtook him by the walls of the 
Castello Giobatista, and struck him so violent and sudden 
a blow upon the temples with a piece of lead which I had 
hastily torn from one of my picture-cases, that Fate allowed 
him time only to give me one look before he fell unconscious 
to the ground. Never was murder committed so deftly, 
never did assassin escape with so much good fortune! I 
thought my rival dead, and hurried back immediately to my 
work in the chapel, where not half-an-hour afterwards I was 
found by those who came to tell me of the Venetian's disaster. 
With them I returned to the fatal spot, and it was in my 
arms, — O Fate! how malicious a deity thou art! — in my 
arms that Domenico of Venice breathed his last ! His 
friend, the Friar of your Order, who had attended his dying 
moments, took charge of the corpse, and under his directions 
It was borne away to the city. Be sure I left no tell-tale 
implement of death upon the ground to bear against me 
a dumb accusation ! I rejoiced ; for the Venetian's paintings 
were never finished ; day by day their beauty paled and 
faded, while the hand that should have given them life and 
immortality lay cold and senseless as the brain that con- 
ceived them^ beneath the pavement of the very church which 
had been the scene of his last labours. Yes, they buried him 
in the chapel of the Santa Maria Nuova, whence now his 
outr^red rhantom rises to rebuke me, not only with my 
false friendship and my shameful jealousy, but with the 
interruption of his greatest work ; — with the theft of his fame 
and his future, — with the murder of his genius ! Monks, — 
my story is finished ; you have heard from end to end the 
details of that blackest and direst crime which sears the soul, 
and shall stain for ever the memory of Andrea del Castagno!" 

With marble face and gasping lips the aged maestro rose 
in his bed, and stretched his hands to heaven. 

"Judge of all the earth," he cried, with a supernatural 
strength of utterance in his hollow, ringing voice, — " I ask no 
mercy from Thee, for I shewed none to Thy servant, and 
I scorn to seek at the hands of a God what I denied to my 
fellow-man ! Deal with me as Thou wilt ; I carry hence 
with me at least this consolation, — ^that now the burden of no 
secret clings to me ; no hidden guilt remains to weigh me 
down through the ages of eternity with the shameful reproach 
of final cowardice ! Soul of the Venetian, be content ; this 
night thy murderer is judged, — this night thou art avenged !" 

The moisture of death stood thick upon Castagno's fore- 



2l6 THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 

head ; he fell back in an agony of exhaustion and excite- 
ment. 

Gently as a woman the fair monk stooped' over the dying 
painter and made the sign of the Cross upon his brow and 
lips. 

"By this holy sign," said he in sweet hushed tones, that 
contrasted like notes of music with the harsh voice of the 
maestro, — " thy Lord redeemed thee before thou wert bom : 
by this holy sign He is yet ready to forgive thee : by this 
holy sign thou may est yet be saved !" 

"Nay! nay!" murmured Castagno, rousing himself from 
the deathly lethargy which was fast overcoming his senses, — 
" the Cross is not for me ! For, even in this last and awful 
hour, I know that if the horrible crime I have recounted were 
to be done again, and I had strength to strike, it would be 
done 1 No devil is so potent and so tenacious of his strong- 
hold as the devil which has possessed me all my life, the 
devil to which I have sacrificed my art and my genius, 
the destroyer of my peace, — the demon of jealousy and 
envy ! " 

His voice failed him, he turned his steely eyes upon the 
dark-faced Friar who stood absorbed and silent at the other 
side of the couch, and briefly uttered a single word, the self- 
same whisper which had risen to the lips of his victim in the 
faintness of death, twenty years ago, — 

"Water!" 

Fra Michael obeyed the sick man's appeal mechanically, 
moving and acting like one in a dream ; no word escaped 
his lips, no gesture betrayed the deep agitation of his mind. 
Again the sweet womanly voice of his angel-eyed companion 
thrilled the chamber of death. 

" Repent, my son," it pleaded ; " time indeed is short for 
thee now, but the mercy of the Lord is long and boundless. 
'Though thy sins be as scarlet they shall be white as 
snow 1 ' " 

Castagno was sinking fast, but his lips moved faintly, and 
Fra Raffael bent anxiously to catch the breathless murmur ; 
— perhaps, even now, it might be a prayer ? 

Alas no ! 

"Too late!" repeated the quavering voice, — "too late! 
Demon — thou hast thy triumph, — Venetian — thou art 
avenged I" 

Then the hard face relaxed like melting iron, the glittering 
eyes grew fixed and glassy ; Andrea del Castagno, — Andrea 
the Infamous — had gone to meet his Judge, in the eternal 
world of the Hereafter ! 

Tears stood in the stern dark eyes of Fra Michael as he 



THE PAINTER OF VENICE. 21/ 

stood by the side of the dead man and clasped the hand 
of his fair friend. 

" Brother," said he in a changed voice, that thrilled solemnly 
through the hushed and darkened room, "let us pray fer- 
vently for the soul of this poor miserable man ! Had I 
listened to the voice of that very evil spirit which has slain 
him, and which tempted tne so grievously twenty years ago, 
Angelo might have died like Domenico of Venice, and 3ie 
end of Andrea degli Impiccati might some day have been 
also mine!" 

" It was God, Brother Michael," returned the fair monk, 
" who wrought so marvellous a change in thine heart I To 
Him and to the sweet lute of my dearest patron we are 
both indebted for our love this day. Gloria Tibi, Dominer 

"Amen!" answered his friend, with bowed head. "To 
Him alone be the glory for evermore !" 



Together they went out into the open night, and beheld the 
solemn shining stars that eternally surround the throne of 
the Lord. And it seemed to them that from the midst of the 
glowing purple sky the voice of an angel spoke to their 
grateful hearts in the sweet familiar words of that holy 
antiphon, which for eighteen hundred years has echoed so 
lovingly the triumphs of the saints : — 

"Thanks be unto God, Who giveth us the Vic- 
tory : through Jesus Christ our Lord !" 



NOBLE LOVE. 




CHAPTER I. 

WHICH TREATS ESPECIALLY OF THE HERO 

AND HEROINE. 

|IS most gracious Majesty of England, King Charles the 
Second, had come home at last after much tribulation, 
to take to himself the enjoyment of his father's crown, 
and the charge of his father's people. And the bells had rung 
themselves out, and the roasted beeves were all eaten to the 
last shreds, and the flags that had floated over the head of 
the " merry monarch," from lady's casement and from attic 
window, were rolled up and put back into dark closets and 
dust and oblivion. 

But the Puritans of Cromwell's planting lived and flourished 
still by hundreds, in all the villages and hamlets of the king- 
dom, as many of the restored royalists discovered with no 
small disgust, when they returned to the halls and estates 
whence they had been ousted by the Rebellion. 

Baron Rowan Maxwell Rowan, an old man at the time of 
the first Charles's impeachment, was a staunch adherent of 
his ill-fated lord, and hated republicans and Puritanism as 
heartily as bad wine. And when Cromwell and his clique 
had got the ascendancy, and the king was dead, and his heir 
an exile abroad. Sir Rowan resolved to go also, rather than 
remain at Rowan Court to be bullied and persecuted by 
democratic tyrants. So they went forth into the world 
together,— old Sir Rowan and Lady Maxwell, with their two 
children, Edith and Marvel. They left behind them streets 
full of weeping tenants, among whom Puritanism had made 
but few converts, and to whose loyal hearts the restoration 
of the monarchy seemed the one earthly thing most to be 
hoped and prayed for. Great, therefore, was the surprise of 
Marvel Maxwell, when at last he returned to the old place 
with his widowed mother and his sister, to find the vUlage 
creed reversed, the Sunday bells silent, and a white-washed 
tavern-room and close-cropped tinker supplying tlTe place of 
church and priest! So fickle and so unsteady are human 
hearts and human aflections I 



220 NOBLE LOVE. 

If Marvel Maxwell had been more of a grown man than 
he happened to be at the time of the Restoration, it is likely 
his influence with his tenantry might have been much more 
powerful than in fact it was ; for despite his endeavours, the 
re-opened church did not fill, and the recalled parson preached 
in vain. Poor Marvel ! He was scarcely more than two-and- 
twenty, for his mother had borne no children until long after 
her marriage, and Edith was his elder by some five years. 
As for Dowager Lady Maxwell herself, she was little help to 
him in his labours, for her health was broken with travel and 
misfortune, and she cared for nothing but to sit all day on 
some high-backed chair by the fireside, and dream indolently 
of her dead husband, and of the days of her youth, and the 
things that had happened long ago. 

It was not till late in the winter of 1 66 1 that the Maxwells 
arrived at Rowan Court, for private matters had detained 
them abroad after most of the king's adherents had returned 
to their homes in old England. So the white February snow 
was yet thick upon the broad roofs of the great house, and 
the wind was bleak and keen enough for Christmas, when 
young Lord Marvel was installed, or rather installed himself 
into the new dignity and responsibility of Baron and Lord of 
Rowan Court. 

Some few of the peasants he recognised and greeted for old 
friends, and their voices sounded familiarly as they wished 
him '* God-den," but most of them by far bore the aspect of 
strangers, or of children grown beyond his remembrance. 
It was getting late one Sunday evening as Marvel walked 
home over the crisp crackling snow, meditating over these 
and many other things. He had been holding a long chat 
with the poor priest of the village church, who was sadly 
disheartened at the ill-success of his ministry, being one of 
those feeble, impatient, despondent people who are given to 
faint at the least discouragement and to shrink from all sorts 
of energetic labour. He was a good man in himself, but he 
never turned himself out for the good of others, and was 
therefore the most unfit of all men to be pastor at such 
a time to such a flock as the Rowan tenantry. Beyond the 
saying of daily prayer, and the preaching of weekly sermons, 
on which occasions the family at the Court and their im- 
mediate followers formed the only congregation, this timid 
priest did scarcely any work in the service of his Church. 
Once or twice during the first week of his return to tlie 
place, he had attempted a few visits among the cottages, 
but the harsh words he met from their inmates, and the 
general hotror and indignation with which he found himself 
and his oflice r^arded, drove him back to the solitude of 
his fireside, to pray and wish idly for better times by-and-by. 



NOBLE LOVE. 221 

And on this particular evening of which I speak, he was 
as down-hearted as usual, for the assembly at church had 
not increased that day, and he began to believe, he said, that 
it never would, despite all his prayers and his longings. And 
Marvel was greatly saddened by his melancholy talk, and no 
wonder, for they had spent some hours together, and an old 
man has large influence over a young one, especially if 
a priest's cassock be added to the weight of years and ex- 
perience. So as he walked home, the baron's meditations 
were not cheering, and he said to himself that the Rowan 
villagers were an ill set altogether, and that there was no 
good of any sort to be found among them, no love, no charity, 
no teachableness. Just as he came to this unsatisfactory 
conclusion, there sounded behind him a light brisk step over 
the hard snow, and Marvel turned hastily to see whose it 
could be, for he knew it was a woman's. She Came up with 
him the next moment, — a little shapely village damsel, with 
a covered basket on her arm, and a dark woollen cloak drawn 
tightly about her head and shoulders. When she saw the 
young lord she paused an instant to drop him a reverence, 
and then sped swiftly on, as though she were apprehensive 
of some pursuing danger, and were pressed for time to escape 
it. Marvel was naturally of an inquisitive turn, and he had 
seen in the moment that the girl's face met his such a gentle 
pair of soft brown eyes, and such a sweet expression of pa- 
tience and tenderness, that he longed to know more both of 
herself and of her errand. So he went out of his way after 
her, and followed her noiselessly, down a dark narrow lane, 
fenced in on one side by yew-trees and bending chestnuts, 
and on the other by a high dead wall. It was a dreary walk 
even at noontide, but now in the gathering blackness of 
a February night it was ghostly and gloomy enough to chill 
stouter hearts than Marvel Maxwell's. Overhead the skeleton 
branches rattled and quaked like the dry bones in the vision 
of the prophet, and the wind moaned around and through 
them as dolefully as any wailing banshee. What could 
induce this trim little maiden to take such a desolate path 
all alone at nightfall ! Marvel felt quite glad as he pondered 
over this, that the fancy had occurred to him to follow her, 
for in case any untoward accident should happen in that 
lonely place, she would not now be without a protector and 
a helping hand. 

But nothing happened, and no nightly marauder, natural 
or supernatural, appeared on the scene, so that the young 
lord's chivalry was not, for that time at least, put to trial, 
and the little Puritan emerged from the gloomy lane, unhurt 
and unappalled. The lane opened upon a wide gorse com- 
mon, whereon stood a single solitary hut, — one could hardly 



222 NOBLE LOVE. 

call it a cottage, so miserable and homeless a place it was, — 
and here under the wooden-roofed doorway the bearer of the 
basket paused and knocked. Marvel paused too, and leant 
against a corner of the building, in the shadow of a tall oak- 
tree, dreading discovery much less on his own account than 
on that of the little wayfarer, whom he greatly feared to 
alarm by his presence. So that it was no little relief to him 
when an old woman within the hovel unfastened the rickety 
door and admitted her visitor, with a croaking, husky word 
of welcome, like the voice of a marsh-frog. 

" Ah, Dorothy ! God bless you, child ; what a bitter night 
itis, isn't it.?*' 

Then the door was closed again, and Marvel heard the 
latch drawn within, and crept out of his corner on tiptoe and 
round to the front of the house. There was a light burning 
inside, a pitiful light enough, for it was only one rush candle, 
but it served to shew him dimly the neat little figure of the 
Puritan damsel, uncloaked and unhooded, in a sober-coloured 
gown and big white collar, with her plentiful brown hair 
stowed away under a cap of snowy texture. She was busy, 
too, it seemed, for her hands flitted to and fro before the 
feeble light as though she were unpacking something, and 
Marvel strained his eyes in vain to see what it could be. 

Presently she moved away from the window, and the 
candle-light went with her ; — had she put it out, he wondered, 
or only taken it somewhere else ? 

But by-and-by a red warm glare lit up the whole of the 
little hut, and flickered and danced on the white snow outside. 
Dorothy had lighted a fire. 

There was a tall black tub for holding rain-water in a recess 
beside the window, and the moonlight being behind it, its 
long dense shadow offered an inviting hiding-place to young 
Maxwell, whose interest in the adventure was now thoroughly 
awakened. So into the recess he crept, warily and stealthily 
as a thief, and peered with eager eyes round as much of the 
one ill-furnished room as came within the scope of his ob- 
servation. 

Opposite the fire, on a broken - backed chair, that was 
patched and mended clumsily enough, reclined an old palsied 
woman with white hair and shrunken sallow features, that 
looked weird and uncanny in the fitful flame-light. Dorothy 
stood beside a deal table, to which the solitary candle was 
now restored, spreading about her various good things from 
her basket — bread-cakes, sugar, a can of milk, and a dish of 
cold broken meats. When she had arranged all these ar- 
ticles to her satisfaction, she passed for a moment out of 
the range of Marvel's focus, and re-appeared bearing a cup, 
a trencher, a wooden spoon, and a knife. Then she stepped 



NOBLE LOVE. 223 

across to the old dame's side, and bending tenderly over her, 
said something which Marvel strained his ears in vain to hear, 
for the wind howled and groaned so persistently and so loudly, 
that a dozen voices would scarcely have been audible through 
its tumult. But that Dorothy's address was an invitation 
to supper was apparent enough from the sequel. For the 
rickety arm-chair was pushed to the table, the old dame 
re -seated thereat, the milk poured into the cup, and the 
bread sliced on the trencher in the shortest possible time, 
by the deft fingers of the youthful Puritan. Very pleasant 
it was to see that smiling little personage passing and re- 
passing before the window as she waited on her ancient 
pensioner, now with the bread, now with the drink, cut- 
ting and halving, and coaxing and persuading, with a grace 
that was irresistibly charming. And when the meal was 
ended, and the remnants of food stowed away on a shelf 
for the morrow's breakfast, Dorothy turned her attention to 
the old woman's pet black cat, who had been watching the 
proceedings throughout, hungrily and patiently enough, from 
his nook in the chimney-corner. On him she now bestowed 
a full platter of milk and soaked bread, and afterwards 
a great deal of caressing and encouragement, which he 
received after the manner of cats, with evident nasal ac- 
knowledgments and gratefully lifted tail. 

Then a certain large book with a worn cover was taken 
from its shelf, and Dorothy sitting at the feet of the old 
woman, found a place in the soiled pages and read aloud 
for some minutes, during which Marvel had to content him- 
self with watching from behind his tub, the sweet lovable 
face of the little damsel and the reverent tenderness with 
which her aged companion regarded her. 

"Surely," he said to himself, "unless appearances are 
strangely different from truth, here are two real Christians 
in our domain ! I will not believe, after this, that everybody 
is bad in Rowan village. But why doesn't Dorothy come 
to church i I will walk home with her and ask her." 

There was a hand on the latch that instant, and then the 
door turned slowly with a rusty creak, and a flood of warm 
ruddy light streamed out over the threshold and fell upon 
the snow beyond it Marvel took the warning, and with- 
drew himself hastily from the window corner to the shadow 
of the oak trunk. 

"Good -night, mother Forbes," said a sweet soft voice, 
which Marvel thought matched exactly with the gentle 
brown eyes and the patient face; "your firewood will last 
till I come again, and to-morrow after my day's work I 
am going to gather a faggot for you in Rowan Brown Wood. 
So you mustn't wonder if I am somewhat late." 



_jmBPM^H^M»aaMaww^«MB«MMMiii«*H«PV« 



m 



224 NOBLE LOVE. 

" God bless thee, Dorothy ! What should I do If He did 
not send thee to take care of me? But it is such a dark, 
cold night I Art thou not afraid to go alone down the 
Ghost-walk, my child ?" 

"Oh no, indeed!" laughed the little Puritan; "there's 
nothing to be afraid of except the cold. And with this 
warm cloak of mine — see ! — I don't think even the cold can 

hurt me!" 

And she tripped away merrily, with her empty basket on 
her arm, laughing and nodding back at the old crone under 
the porch. 

Then the rusty hinges creaked again, the red glow dis- 
appeared from the doorway, and the latch fell within. And 
there was nothing to be seen but the cold white snow all 
over the bare gorse moor, and the colder moonlight all over 
the bleak sky, and a little dark figure moving swiftly along 
towards the entrance of the Ghost-walk. 



CHAPTER II. 

CHIEFLY CONCERNING DOROTHY AND DOROTHY'S 

DIFFICULTIES. 

Not alone though, for Marvel Maxwell followed her 
closely, plucking up heart and words wherewith to accost 
her, and finding both items sadly inadequate to the occasion. 
At last he made a bold stroke, just as they passed into the 
gloom of that desolate lane, and quickening his pace, he 
brought himself to the girl's side with a courteous salute 
and a soft-spoken, — "Mistress, this is a lone walk and 
a late hour; may I be your escort to the village?" But 
over the top of the high wall the moonlight fell full on 
his face as he raised his hat, and Dorothy gave a little 
start and a little cry, but the next instant recogfnising the 
baron, she blushed beneath her hood from chin to forehead, 
like a full-blown peony. 

Marvel perceived her embarrassment and ventured a gentle 
remonstrance. 

" What, my fair mistress, are you afraid of me ? On my 
word as a gentleman, I have no intention towards you save 
to bear you good company down this dismal road. But 
if you don't like my fellowship I will walk behind and be 
content, so long as I see you safe and unmolested." 

"Forgive my seeming rudeness, noble sir," stammered 
Dorothy ; " it was not yourself that startled me, but a 



NOBLE LOVE. 22$. 

foolish fancy, for which I suppose the moon and the sha- 
dows of the branches overhead are to blame." 

"How now?" returned Marvel, laughing, "did you then 
take me for a goblin ?" 

"Not for a goblin exactly, my Lord, but for something, 
I own, quite as disagreeable to my taste." 

Marvel's curiosity, already wide awake for all that con- 
cerned Dorothy, was piqued exceedingly by this mysterious 
reply. 

"Prithee, damsel," said he, "forbear riddling, for I am 
slow at guesswork, and tell me, without more ado, what 
made you cry out at the sight of me, if it was not I myself 
who startled you?" 

But Dorothy's answer was long in coming, and the words 
faltered and staggered on her lips, — "It was only a resem- 
blance, my Lord, — the sound of your voice, — a sudden like- 
ness which struck me as I looked in your face. But no 
doubt I mistook : I have only seen your lordship once 
or twice, and then not closely nor unbonneted. Besides, 
I have never heard you speak until now." 

" So ho, that is all, is it ? Well, Tm glad you did not 
take me for a Ghost ! But may I ask, mistress, for whom 
or for what you did take me, and why the resemblance was 
so unwelcome to you ?" 

Dorothy hesitated more painfully than before, but Marvel 
scarcely noticed her reluctance to reply, being as thoroughly 
in earnest about the matter as it was his nature to be about 
everything which was not a subject of absolute indifference 
to him. But perhaps if he could have caught a glimpse of 
the confusion that crept over the little face under the Puri- 
tan's hood, he would have desisted from such strict cate- 
chizing. However, as Dorothy did not raise her head, and 
as they were now walking through the darkest part of the 
road, he can hardly be blamed for a breach of good manners, 
if he waited somewhat pitilessly for his companion's answer. 
When at length it came, it was spoken in a low voice, but 
withal was firm and explicit enough to satisfy even inqui- 
sitive young Maxwell. 

" My Lord, I fancied your voice and your face bore a like- 
ness to Nicholas Webb's, — your Grace's lodge-keeper, — and 
I hate him more than anything upon earth, although he is 
my father's friend." 

Despite himself. Marvel's brow lowered, and his lips tight- 
ened, for this resemblance between master and dependant 
was not accidental. Baron Rowan Maxwell had grievously 
sinned once in his life, and this Nicholas Webb was half- 
brother to Marvel, though none but Lady Maxwell and her 
son knew the fact Webb's poor mother had died in giving 

Q' 




226 NOBLE LOVE. 

him birth, and Lord Rowan by way of partial atonement 
for his guilt, had confessed the whole matter to his chaplain 
and to his wife, like an honest man and a Christian. And 
then to do his best by his peasant-bom son, he brought him, 
with Lady Maxwell's consent, to his own estate, and gjave 
him into the care of an old maid who then kept the lodge at 
the gates of the home-park. 

She christened her nursling Nicholas, after the patron 
saint of boys, in hopes, doubtless, that he might do honour 
to so reverend and catholic a name. But when she died, 
and the young waif succeeded her in the post of lodge- 
keeper, he did not grow up in the way he was taught, 
but became instead more selfish and hypocritical and sen- 
sual every year; and when Baron Rowan and his family 
left the Court, and Puritanism came down like a flood upon 
the country, Nicholas was one of the first in the place to 
adopt the new morality, for he recognised in it an easy cloak 
for his particular sins. 

Marvel was seven years younger than this promising half- 
brother of his, and therefore was not of an age to understand 
the relationship between them until some time after his father 
and mother had gone with him and Edith into their volun- 
tary exile. Then Lord Rowan told him, and bade him for 
Christ's sake to treat his vassal brother kindly when he 
should come to be master at the Court ; but he left it to 
Marvel's own discretion to tell the matter to his sister Edith 
or not. And Marvel had never told it her, for he thought 
it best that the secret should remain with Lady Maxwell 
and his own heart, since Nicholas believed himself the or- 
phaned child of some poor cottager whom his lord had 
befriended, and had no more notion than the old dame who 
nursed him that his father was Lord Rowan Maxwell. Per- 
haps it was a little unfair on the part of the latter to conceal 
his parentage from Nicholas himself, but after all it was 
best in the sequel, especially with the sort of disposition 
which young Webb developed. And Marvel felt that it 
would be worse than useless now to let loose the tongues 
of the tenantry over his dead father's honour and good 
name. 

Yet sometimes he almost made up his mind that it was 
expedient to remove Nicholas from the estate, upon some 
pretence or other, for the likeness between them had in- 
creased with years, and although in childhood it was not 
very remarkable, the new baron feared that now he had 
returned to the place a grown man, the similarity his features 
bore to those of his servant would be noticed by some of 
the villagers, and that thus the real state of the case would 
be discovered. But Marvel forgot that resemblence lies less 



NOBLE LOVE. 22/ 

in feature than in expression and surroundings, and that his 
own open, truthful face, curled love-locks, and cavalier's 
moustache, could have but little fellowship with the sinister 
countenance, clipped crown, and unkempt beard of Nicholas 
Webb. 

It was with no small dismay, therefore, that Marvel heard 
Dorothy admit her mistake, for he did not then know either 
what particular cause she had for her nervousness, or how 
useful the resemblance between him and his lodge-keeper 
would one day prove both to himself and to her. 

So, to divert a conversation which he couM but ill sustain, 
Marvel began a new code of queries relative to his companion's 
own personality and condition, with which he, as lord of the 
demesne, had a right to be acquainted. 

Dorothy, in speaking of Nicholas Webb, had mentioned 
him as her father's friend, and Marvel took occasion from 
this admission to ask whose daughter she was. 

" Humphrey Pratt, — my father, — if it please your Grace," 
answered she, dropping him another little reverence, "is 
a weaver of Rowan village ; and I am Dorothy Pratt, his 
only child, bread-maker, cheese-churner, and laundress, at 
your lordship's service." 

This glibly - delivered piece of information sounded to 
Marvel's ears so like an "advertisement," that he laughed 
outright, and the little Puritan took heart at his merriment, 
and brightened up amazingly. And looking up with shy, 
soft eyes at his jovial face, as they came out of the dark 
lane together into the clear broad moonlight, Dorothy won- 
dered in her heart how she could possibly have confused it 
with the face of such a churlish loon as Nicholas Webb. 
But Marvel talked on. 

"Humphrey Pratt is your father, is he? I have heard 
mine speak of a weaver named Pratt who lived once in this 
place, but he left it to marry on another estate before I was 
old enough to remember anything Sibout him. But if he has 
returned hither again, and you are his daughter, you should 
certainly be no Puritan, for the Pratt of whom I speak was 
a staunch Churchman, and a great favourite with my father. 
He used to say that Pratt the weaver was the most loyal 
subject of the King, and the most dutiful son of the Church, 
on the Rowan land." 

"That was Philip Pratt, my Lord," returned Dorothy. 
*' He was my father's only brother, and died when I was 
hardly four years old, so that I know little or nothing 
about him. But my father and I came to live at my uncle's 
cottage in this place fourteen years ago, and his old sign- 
board is over the door still, because, as father's trade is the 
same as my uncle's was, he didn't think it worth while to 

Q2 



r 



228 NOBLE LOVE. 

take it down. I think uncle Philip left him the cottage, or 
asked him to take it, for I know we came here directly after 
his death, and I can remember no other home. But father 
is a Nonconformist, and has brought me up in his way, 
though to be sure I do hate going to hear Master Nipper 
discourse at the tavern on Lord's days." 

Marvel laughed again at this concluding acknowledgment, 
but somewhat bitterly too, for he thought of ignorant Master 
Nipper's crowded assemblies, and of the pitiful congregation 
in the little village church. But he said nothing, so Dorothy, 
true to her surname, prattled on. 

" Father is at Master Nipper's meeting now," she said ; 
"or coming home by this time maybe, for I am afraid it 
is late. I must get indoors before he comes though, for 
I have to lay supper, and he doesn't know I have been 
out." Then, with a sudden little expression of alarm on her 
sweet face, "You won't tell him, my Lord, will you ?" 

" Oh no, not I," answered Marvel, lightly ; " set your mind 
at ease on that score, Dorothy, and on all others too, for," 
continued he more gravely, " I'm very sure you have been 
doing nothing wrong." 

He did not tell her that he had been witness of her even- 
ing's employment, for he feared she might think him some- 
thing of a spy ; but his opinion of Humphrey Pratt's creed 
was not bettered by the inference he drew from Dorothy's 
conversation, that her father would have disapproved such 
conduct as hers had he been made cognizant of it 

He was reflecting upon this last point, when Dorothy 
again interrupted the silent tide of his meditations. 

"See, my Lord," she said, "that is uncle Philip's house, 
— the white one with the sign-board over the doorway." 

And Marvel looked and beheld a gilded shuttle suspended 
above the gabled porch like a hooked fish, and read beneath 
it, in straggling, clumsy characters, " Philip Pratt, Weaver." 

" You don't speak of your mother, Dorothy," said Marvel 
presently, in a gentle voice. " Is she dead .^" 

" Yes, my Lord, she died long, long ago, so long ago, that 
I think I must have been only just bom, for I don't know 
anything about her." 

"Then," pursued he, "you don't know, I suppose, whether 
she was a Church woman or not .^" 

**No, my lord, I never heard father tell. But I should 
think she couldn't have helped being what father is." 

Marvel's lips curled a little. 

" Dorothy, I wish you would come to church." 

But she shook her head demurely. 

" I can't, please your Grace ; father would be so vexed, 
—so angry." 



NOBLE LOVE. 229 

Marvel's good opinion of Humphrey Pratt, small as it 
had been at the beginning of his conversation with Dorothy, 
was now fast diminishing to nothing. 

" You are quite right to be dutiful to your father," he said, 
in a low voice ; " but remember, fair mistress, there is a higher 
duty still, due to another Father than he. Besides, you tell 
me that what you have done but now would offend him if 
he knew it. Why, then, did you do it ?" 

But the little Puritan was either shy of controversy, or 
apprehensive of Humphrey's speedy return. 

"You are very kind to me, my Lord," she said after 
a little pause, "but indeed, indeed I daren't I run more 
risk just now than you can know, and I have my bread to 
earn, and not for myself only. But now I must bid your 
Grace good-night, — we are at the door." 

So Marvel said no more, but he resolved on the morrow 
evening to be in Rowan Brown Wood, whither, he had heard 
Dorothy tell the old dame, she was going to gather faggots. 
And he bade her farewell like a courteous gentleman, and 
strode on his way homeward. 



CHAPTER III. 

HOW MARVEL ASKED SOME QUESTIONS. 

The horologe at the Court House was just upon the hour 
of six p.m. as young Lord Maxwell came sauntering down 
the broad gravel way of the park towards the lodge gate. 
Nicholas Webb was outside the porch, hatchet in hand, 
chopping sticks for fire-wood, and humming to himself a 
Puritanic psalm-tune withal to beguile his labour. 

But when Marvel came up. Master Nicholas, who, not- 
withstanding his Puritanism, was always glad of an occasion 
to curry favour in high places, and who kept a civil tongue 
in his cunning head for all his betters, ceased chopping, and 
doffed his cap with a smooth " Good even to your Lordship ; 
your Lordship will be in for a fresh fall of snow I*m thinking ! 
It*s mighty black over Rowan gorse moor, and I sha'n*t ha' 
finished my work here a piece too soon! You'd best not 
venture far, my Lord." 

" Go to, man I " laughed Marvel, contemptuously, " do you 
think I care for a snow-storm ? But, talking of the gorse 
moor, canst tell me who lives in the little wooden house 
there, just at the top of the long yew lane.^ I marked it J^ 



k. 



230 NOBLE LOVE. 

yesterday, and wondered who kept it, for it sadly needs 
repair." 

** Why, surely!" quoth Nicholas, with a sagacious leer on 
his disagreeable face, " I can tell your Grace of one who 
bides therein, but they do say there be others also, whose 
names I daren't so much as spell over to your Lordship. 
But the house, your Lordship, belongs to old Alice Forbes, 
the witch, who has an evil eye over all in the place, and 
who fills Yew-lane with ghosts and goblins so that nobody 
may be able to come near her. And nobody would either, 
after sundown, at least, even if the ghosts were away, for 
Satan goes o* nights to the cottage, and IVe heard tell 
in the village that one of the neighbours coming home over 
the moor after eight o'clock saw a light burning in the house 
and the door ajar, and heard two voices talking together, 
and was so frightened that he ran for his life in a cold sweat 
and was sick of an ague for a week afterwards." 

Marvel laughed merrily at this long-winded relation, for 
he thought he could guess who had been the Satan in the 
instance on record. But as the lodge-keeper looked inclined 
to sulk at such a demonstration of incredulity, he controlled 
his sense of the ridiculous, and asked him with more gravity 
of demeanour, 

" Well, Nicholas, but why should the neighbours see any- 
thing diabolic in the fact that the old dame burns a candle 
after dark, or talks with her visitors at her own doorway ?" 

" Because," returned Nicholas, brandishing his hatchet with 
impressive energy, " because she can't have got any candles 
unless the Evil One brought them to her, and she can't haye 
any visitors except they come from where they shouldn't. 
Nobody Jias seen her at the market these six months and more, 
and she daren't come, for there's not a soul would sell her 
so much as a single loaf, and she'd only get her head cracked 
for her pains. Last time she came, all the village set on 
her and had her down to the horse -pond and there they 
ducked her well, and drove her home with a hue-and-cry 
at the broom-end, only as it was June weather the water 
was warm I suppose, and she took no hurt ; but even so 
'twas enough to have made an end of any old crone over 
seventy, saving a witch. So you see, my lord, she don't 
stir out now, because she knows what she would get by it ; 
and there's not a body on the land that dare cross her path, 
let alone speak with her, for fear of her spells and of her black 
cat, which they say is a demon, and takes his real form at 
night. And besides that, all the gossips are sworn to duck 
the first man or woman that holds a word of converse with 
her. So as things are in this case, how is it possible for her 
to live at all without ever a bit of mortal bread or sup to bless 



NOBLE LOVE. 231 

herself with since Midsummer, or how can she h'ght a fire 
without a candle's end, or have visitors when nobody dare 
go near her? It's quite clear, as your Lordship sees, that 
some one must supply her food and her fuel, and that some 
one is undoubtedly the foul fiend himself, and that's the 
reason none of us dare go by the house of late, for fear of 
even worse company than witches. If it weren't for that, I'm 
thinking they'd have set fire to it long ago, and burnt the 
roof over the old hag and her cat together. But of course, 
Satan being there, no man durst attempt such a thing." 

Herewith Nicholas brought his oration to an end, and 
shook his head two or three times like one who has de- 
livered some incontrovertible argument. And Marvel, who 
knew how useless it would be to attempt reasoning with 
such gross prejudices, contented himself with the mental 
ejaculation, "Well done, Dorothy!" 

Then he took two steps towards the gate, hesitated, and 
turned again to his retainer. 

**Do you happen to know anything of a weaver in this 
town named Humphrey Pratt?" he asked, with an off-hand, 
careless manner, as though he wished to make a few un- 
important inquiries. 

*♦ Ay, ay!" was the prompt rejoinder, "that do I my Lord. 
They call him blind old Pratt, because he glues his eyes to 
his loom so hard and so long, that he can't see a yard before 
his nose when he looks off it ! He has a fair daughter, whom 
I hope and trust some day, so please your Lordship's honour, 
to make Mistress Webb." 

"Indeed!" said Marvel, with much greater interest; "I 
am surp — ^ I mean I am glad to hear it May I ask, friend 
Nicholas, if it be not impertinent, does Mistress Dorothy 
love you?" 

" You know her name, then, I perceive, my Lord," quoth 
the other somewhat evasively. **Ah! if you have any 
dealings with good Master Pratt, would your Lordship just 
put in a word for your humble servant, and say the match 
would give your Lordship much satisfaction and content ?" 

" It seems, then," persisted Marvel, " that you have some 
little difficulty to overcome in the matter?" 

" Not with worthy Master Humphrey, please your Lord- 
ship ; he is willing enow to take me for his son-in-law, but 
the damsel is rather coy at times." 

"She does not love you then, I suppose?" said Marvel, 
driving his nail fairly home. Nicholas winced visibly. 

"Oh yes, she loves me, your Lordship, but, as I was 
saying, damsels are always a little coy. So if your Lord- 
ship would condescend to — " 

But Marvel cut him short. 



^ 



232 WOBLE LOVE. 

** Well, well, Nicholas, I promise you Til inquire into the 
matter, and you shall have all possible justice done you ; 
but I can't stay now, it grows late, and the evening's too 
cold for much standing." 

And he went off on his expedition, repeating to himself, 
— "/Nicholas Webb whom I hate' That doesn't sound 
much like coyness, I fancy. But we shall see." 

It was past seven before Marvel reached the Rowan Brown 
Wood, and Dorothy was there already, hard at work among 
the broken boughs and stubble chips. 

But she did not see him, for her eyes were intent on the 
ground, and there were many thick bramble bushes between 
them. So Marvel stooped down and applied himself dili- 
gently to the task of collecting a faggot, the presentation 
of which might earn him the privilege of another conversa- 
tion with the sweet little Puritan. 

And since his interview with the lodge-keeper, Dorothy 
Pratt had risen to a high place in his good books ; for in 
those times, when superstition and prejudice were so strong 
and rife among all classes, it was a certain proof of no ordi- 
nary intelligence and courage to act as this little woman had 
done. So Marvel knew now that she must be wise and brave 
as well as kind-hearted, and he longed to make a Catholic 
of her, and to save so much dignified sweetness from the 
influence of schism and false teaching. He felt sure that 
he had discovered a real jewel among the dust and chaff 
of the village, and he could not find in his heart to pass it 
by without one effort to dig it out of the general mire. But 
how should he set about the work ? Certainly it was a deli- 
cate matter. 

While he pondered and collected, Dorothy had well-nigh 
filled her apron, and sat down upon a felled beech -trunk 
to bind up her store. Marvel glanced at his bundle and 
saw that it was quite large enough for an ordinary-sized 
faggot, — as much, certainly, as the little maid could carry 
in addition to her own. So he broke through the brambles 
and advanced with his offering, to the great surprise and 
confusion of poor Dorothy. But the gift was presented 
with such kind words and with such an easy grace, that 
she was soon re-assured, and Marvel, sitting down beside 
her, helped to tie up her treasures, so that by-and-by master 
and peasant became quite sociable, and chatted together as 
pleasantly as possible. 

After a little while. Marvel contrived to turn the dialogue 
again upon Nicholas Webb, for he wished, in spite of his 
dismay at the unsavoury mistake Dorothy had made be- 
tween them the preceding day, to know more exactly what 
place the lodge-keeper held in his fair one's estimation. 



NOBLE LOVE. 2^^ 

At first, however delicately Marvel's questions were framed, 
Dorothy betrayed great uneasiness in answering them, but 
by degrees, as she perceived the really warm interest he 
took in the matter, she began to open all her heart to him. 
Very probably she imagined, as her lover had done before 
her, that the young baron might exert his influence to help 
her out of her difficulty with Master Nicholas, and to smooth 
things over between him and her father. For she told Marvel 
that this churlish admirer of hers pursued her everywhere 
with his odious attentions, and although she took every pos- 
sible occasion to discourage and avoid him, and had refused 
his suit in her very plainest language, yet that she found 
herself beset- by him at home and abroad all times of the 
day. "And," continued Dorothy, "this is not all, for my 
father, by some misapprehension, takes his part ; and every 
evening when my work is over he falls to discoursing with 
me upon Master Webb's excellences, and my folly in so 
long delaying a marriage between us. But indeed, my lord, 
I cannot obey my father in this, though I have tried many 
times to make up my mind to it, and I have prayed with 
all my heart that if it really is my duty, it may be made 
a little pleasanter to me to do. I suppose father's friendship 
for Master Webb makes him press the match upon me so 
greatly ; but yet, until Master Webb thought of me, I don't 
remember ever having seen him and father together. And 
even now, though I call him father's friend, it's very little 
they have to do with each other, save a word or two at the 
prayer-meeting and at our house when Master Webb comes 
to talk with father about me, which he does generally once 
a-week, on Saturday nights. Oh, my Lord !" cried poor 
Dorothy, breaking down suddenly at this point, and hiding 
her sweet face in her hands, " I don't know what your 
honour must think of me, but I am so very very unhappy 
sometimes when I think of all this." 

And she bent down her little hooded head and cried 
bitterly. 

Marvel felt for a minute exceedingly shy, and ill at ease. 
He did not know quite what to do nor what to say, nor 
indeed whether to do or say anything. But presently his 
generous frank good-nature came to his aid, and he said 
simply, 

" Don't cry, Dorothy ; I'll try and help you, I will indeed, 
and I daresay it will all come right soon. Only go on doing 
as you are doing now, and being kind and brave and patient, 
and you are sure to be happy." 

Then he hesitated a little, and kicked the snow at his feet 
before he got courage to go on, but then ; 

** Dorothy," he said, " do you know I saw you last night at 



234 NOBLE LOVE. 

old dame Forbes's, — and — I know all about her and why 
people ill-treat her so shamefully ; but I want to know now if 
it is you who have kept her alive and clothed and fed her 
since Midsummer?" 

Dorothy dropped her hands suddenly and looked up at 
him for a moment without speaking, and with such a mixture 
of alarm and dismay in her brown eyes, as made Marvel add 
hastily ; 

" There's no reason to be frightened, Dorothy, — never mind 
if the villagers are fools, / am only very very glad to know 
the poor creature has a friend in you. So please tell me all 
about it." 

"Thank God!" cried the little Puritan, drawing a deep 
breath of relief. " I thought all the world was against her ! 
But if your Lordship is of such a mind, maybe you would 
speak to the neighbours and get them to hear reason. They 
won't take it from me I know, and I daren't try, for fear they 
should come thereby to find out how I visit at her house, and 
should hinder my going there, and then she would surely 
starve. But this reminds me that the hour is late, and I must 
be going on my way with my bundle." 

** Stop, Dorothy," said Marvel, leaping up eagerly as she 
rose to go, ** let me walk with you ! I am to blame for 
keeping you here so long in this desolate place I Why, you 
must be perished with the cold! And look, — it begins to 
snow now, and I can see how black the sky is through the 
branches above us. You must never venture along that dark 
gloomy lane alone to-night, for I know, Dorothy, that's the 
way you're going !" So they went, both of them together. 



^ 



CHAPTER IV. 

WHEREIN DOROTHY GOES TO CHURCH. 

Two or three weeks had gone by, and the weather began 
to look less winter-like. The snow was gone from the roads 
and the housetops, and the rough March winds swept and 
roared and careered over the bleak gorse common like 
demons let loose for a season. 

Marvel Maxwell had learnt several things about Dorothy 
since his first acquaintance with her, and all he had learnt only 
served to raise her higher in his reverence and esteem. 

Chief among his discoveries was the fact that the Puritan 
damsel had been the sole succour and support of poor old 
dame Forbes ever since that fatal market-day of which 
Nicholas Webb had spoken. And when her day's work as 



NOBLE LOVE. 235 

baker, chumer, or sempstress was completed, and old Pratt 
was safely away at the tavern, attending pious Master Nip- 
per's addresses, — which were punctually delivered there every 
evening at seven o'clock, — little Dorothy, basket on arm, 
had been wont to sally forth for an hour or two, to carry 
relief to the persecuted widow. True, there had been some 
cold damp foggy nights when Nipper's discourses had failed 
to attract old Humphrey from his corner settle, or when 
Nipper himself had not been moved to assemble the elect. 
But these occasions were few and far between, for other 
things took place at the tavern besides prayer and eloquence, 
and Pratt was not the man to lose a stirring draught of brew 
and an hour's good company for fear of five minutes' walk 
through an unpleasant atmosphere. Wherefore it was not 
often that Dorothy missed her nightly labour of love, but 
even when such was the case the old crone had no need to 
go to bed portionless, for her kind guardjan's supplies of food 
and fuel were always plentiful enough to last over two days. 

So for a long eight months this good little girl's earnings 
maintained and clothed and comforted the outcast of the 
village, who but for such timely help would most certainly 
have perished. Truly she was rightly named Dorothy, for 
to one at least she had already become in a singularly literal 
sense, " God's Gift ! " 

All these things came to Marvel's knowledge little by 
little, for Dorothy was slow to tell her good deeds, and the 
young lord was obUged to help himself to information on the 
subject from his own surmising, and then question his little 
heroine as to the truth of his assumptions. But he was not 
so long in discovering another fact, to wit, that Humphrey 
Pratt's daughter was the pet and idol of the whole village. 
All the young men of the place sighed and cast sheep's eyes 
after her as she went by their workshops ; all the young 
women ran to her for advice and help whenever they fancied 
themselves in a dilemma ; and all the fathers and mothers 
smiled and brightened at the sound of her voice, as though 
it did their old ears good to listen to it. So perhaps Dorothy 
underrated her influence with the incorrigible Rowanites when 
she took it for granted that they would never hear reason 
from her lips. At all events. Marvel tried his arguments, and 
tried them in vain, — the very mention of Alice Forbes was 
enough to throw a gloom or a scowl over the face of the most 
kindly-disposed among his tenants. For of all terrible evils 
under the sun, prejudice is the hardest to get rid of, and 
when it has infected a whole town of ignorant peasants, there 
is little chance of overcoming it at all, unless by some sudden 
stroke which shall convince and convert the entire population 
at once. And at present there appeared to poor Marvel 



236 NOBLE LOVE. 

little likelihood of such an event But all things come in 
their proper season, and as the all-wise God sees best and 
fittest. 

So Dorothy went on with her good work in secret, not 
doing her alms to be seen of men, but yet much lighter 
and gladder of heart now that she had Marvel's help. 

Old Alice's store of provisions increased considerably after 
her little friend's acquaintance with the young master, and 
beside Dorothy's dainty loaves and her can of milk, there 
often appeared a good bason full of thick soup or of jelly 
from the Court kitchen, or a flask of red delicious wine out of 
the baronial cellar. 

And now Dorothy's walks to and fro thegorse common 
were seldom lonely, for Marvel Maxwell almost always found 
means to bear her company, carrying her basket and beguil- 
ing the journey along the desolate way with his pleasant talk. 

Never once during these expeditions did they encounter 
a soul, for all the peasants had taken such thorough fright 
at the '* Ghost-walk " and the " Witches' Moor," that none of 
them, especially after sun-down, would venture within half- 
a-mile of the place. But notwithstanding, Marvel thought 
it prudent to keep watch outside the cottage, while Dorothy 
delivered her gifts, and made supper for her charge within. 
Though, if truth be told, this course of conduct was pursued 
as much to avoid the embarrassment of the old dame's thanks 
as to secure Dorothy's safety. 

But Marvel had something better than pretty talk for the 
Puritan maiden during these evening excursions. For the 
two whole months of March and April, he laboured inces- 
santly to bring her into the bosom of that Church which was 
so dear to him ; and Dorothy, though horribly afraid of of- 
fending her father, began after a little to hear him gladly. 

So he taught her all that he himself had been taught, and 
the sweet comfortable doctrines won her love and warmed 
her whole heart, till they sank down into it and took root 
there. And she felt how blessed a thing this great broad 
Catholic truth is, and how much better than her father's 
narrow cold-souled Puritanism, that doled itself out in lach- 
rymose psalms and tinkers' prayers. 

Ah, those Yew-lane walks in the evening were very sweet 
and pleasant to both Dorothy and Marvel, spite of the ghosts 
and the hobgoblins there ! 

And so the windy March weather wore itself out, and April 
laughed and wept over the land by turns, as though she 
were loth, even in the midst of her kind-heartedness, to give 
so lavishly from her treasure-store of sweet buds and blossoms, 
and must needs shed a few tears over them as she dropped 
them one after the other into the hungry hands of the poor 



NOBLE LOVE. 




lomd KuvoU klmoet ftlwan 



NOBLE LOVE. 237 

old earth. But Dorothy loved the spring-time dearly, as all 
pure beauty-loving hearts do, for it is the most musical poem 
in all the world's great hymnal. And the grand Master-poet 
who wrote it so long long ago, has left in it, to those who read 
it rightly, a sweeter mirage of His own tender heart and 
eternal loveliness than in anything else we know of upon 
earth. And as Dorothy and Marvel passed side by side 
down the long lane in the soft still delicious eventide, under 
the bending yew-trees and the chestnuts and the lindens, now 
no longer bare, but laden with all their new wealth of fresh 
tender leaves, the little maiden said to herself in the joy of 
her heart, " Surely this must be like something in heaven !" 

And I do not think, for my part, that she was very wrong, 
for what shall we find in heaven better than the consolation 
of God, and pure love, and peaceful beauty ? And the be- 
ginnings of these three things are here upon earth with us 
now, shadows though they be, vague and unsatisfying, but 
pictured promises nevertheless of blessed, blessed fulness 
hereafter! "For now we see through a glass darkly, but 
then face to face." 

One Saturday, the last in April, as they came home toge- 
ther. Marvel spoke long and earnestly to his little cate- 
chumen about the duty of serving God in heaven before any 
man upon earth, whether dear friend, or father, or husband. 
" For remember, Dorothy," he said, " that if father or mother 
should forsake us, the dear Lord will be better to us than 
they. And who knows but that if you only do what is right 
yourself, you may win others back to the old faith, and 
perhaps even your father too in time.^ You are brave, 
Dorothy, I know, will you not do this little thing for the holy 
Christ who did such great things for you, and be first of all in 
the village to call His Church your mother?" 

And Dorothy answered him, — "My Lord, it is not that 
I am afraid to go to church, or even that I dread my father's 
displeasure, but only that he is my father and that he has 
forbidden me to hear the priest. Now, it is not at all the 
same thing for me to go to church as to visit Alice Forbes, 
for the one my father has positively commanded me to refrain 
from, and the other, being a secret to all except yourself, is 
of course unknown to him. So in what I do now I am free 
from disobedience, but if I should go to church I should trans- 
gress in the most direct and flagrant manner. And am I not 
bound to obey him, seeing I am his child, and, as such, owe 
him all reverence and duty ? Besides, I have a new debt to 
him now, for of late he has been very kind to me in the 
matter of Master Webb, and I have heard nothing about him, 
nor have I so much as seen him near me these fourteen days 
and more. So, though I don't quite like to ask, I begin to 



238 NOBLE LOVE. 

hope the match is broken off. And if it be, ought I not fo 
be very grateful to father for it? And then, you know, 
St. Paul himself bids children obey their parents," 

"Yes, Dorothy, but '/>/ tlie Lord' You believe that your 
father's religion is false and insincere, you know that the 
better road is before you, and God's voice behind you, saying, 
* This is the way, walk ye in it,' yet you forget that your ex- 
ample might lead your father himself to follow your steps, if 
only you would 'do the thing that is right' And whether he 
follow you or not, you are more bound to hear that voice of 
your Father in heaven than any other who pleads with you 
on earth. Only look upon all the golden light and brightness 
of large love and nearness to the dear Lord, that lies before 
you, and think ! — can you bear to turn back again into the 
cold twilight and the narrow-heartedness of this wretched, 
barren schism ? Will you live and die without once having 
joined in the prayers of our sweet Church liturgy, without 
once having sung our hymns, and saddest of all, without once 
having knelt at Christ's altar to share in that glorious Feast 
we celebrate every Sunday ? O Dorothy, Dorothy ! you 
are a Catholic at heart, be a Catholic also in noble deed 
and name!" 

Dorothy looked into Marvel's eyes. They were brimming 
over with anxious tears, and his whole face was flushed with 
the earnestness of his entreaty. 

** My Lord," she said, in a low, unsteady voice, " be com- 
forted, and pray that things may turn out for me and for my 
father as you have said, for I will surely be at church to- 
morrow, and you may tell the priest that I will go and speak 
with him afterwards." 

So she promised, and they parted, both of them glad and 
hopeful, for both were young and true-hearted. 

And the next morning Dorothy kept her word, and came 
shyly in at the church door just as the bells began to ring, 
for she was terribly afraid of being late. And she sat down 
in the remotest little corner she could find, beneath a tall 
painted window of the Blessed Virgin with the holy Child 
upon her knee, and she looked up at it and wondered at it 
with awe in her brown eyes, and thought how very beautiful 
it was, and how much she should like to have such a sweet 
picture to look at every day. 

And when Marvel came in with Lady Maxwell and his 
sister Edith, and saw his little catechumen sitting in her 
place with her big white collar and gray gown, and the bright 
colours of the painted window shining full on her Puritan's 
hood and blushing face, he smiled a kind glad smile at her 
that did Dorothy's heart a world of good. But when the 
service was over, and the last blessing pronounced, she rose 



NOBL.E LOVE. 




r, Dorothjr altt hu IttUier.''-(iii/iif 




NOBLE LOVE. 239 

up from her knees before the rest of the congregation, and 
stole out alone on her way home. For she was afraid of 
meeting Marvel then, because the Baroness and Lady Edith 
were with him, and they were strangers to her, and little 
Dorothy was shy of such grand people. 

But at home there was great trouble in store for our 
heroine. For no sooner did she enter the low porch of the 
weaver's cottage than old Pratt pounced upon her like a cat 
on a mouse, with an angry frown on his pimply face and 
a grasp like the pinch of iron tongs. 

"How now, Dorothy I" cried he ; "where hast thou been 
with that best hood and clean new collar of thine f Not to 
the prayer meeting, I warrant me, for I looked all round the 
room, and thou wast not to be seen there I Thou hast been 
gallavanting about the country, wench, with some idle young 
loon, or gossiping maybe in good-for-nothing Nell Tomkin- 
son's cottage I I'll teach thee thy duty, girl, I promise *ee." 

** Indeed, father," pleaded poor Dorothy, " I haven't been 
loitering about anywhere. I know I wasn't at Master Nip- 
per's meeting, but indeed I have been doing nothing wrong." 

"Where hast been, then, wench .^" demanded the weaver, 
standing over her with a grim scowl on his brow. " I'll have 
it out o' thee, so speak up at once and no badgering. What 
hast been doing all this morning ? Come I" 

Dorothy stood silent, with her eyes cast down and her 
hands pressed together very tightly. The trial time had 
come already, and the armour had to be buckled on. Would 
it be proof against such a thrust as this ? Poor little soldier ! 

"Come, come, mistress !" thundered old Pratt, after waiting 
for a reply in vain a few moments. " I wi// be obeyed I Tell 
me where you have been 1" 

"Father," said the sweet, low voice, very falteringly, "don't 
be angry with me ; I have been to the village church." 

There was a pause. Dorothy knew what it meant, and 
her heart sank within her miserably. If only Marvel were 
there by her side ! — but she was all alone, quite alone. No, 
not quite alone. For just at that moment she remembered 
the consoling words of which Marvel had spoken the night 
before, — " When my father and mother forsake me, then the 
Lord taketh me up." But old Pratt was past indignation, — 
he was past argument — he was at sarcasm point. 

" Oh ho," he sneered, " thou hast been to church hast 'ee ? 
Well, thou'lt never go again, mistress, for I've got a cure for 
that complaint all ready here in my pocket!" And as he 
slapped the side of his vest with a vehement hand, Dorothy 
heard the crunch of paper. What could it be ? 

" So this is the meaning of thine unwillingness to hear 
good Master Nipper's discourses, is it ? Art going to set up 



240 NOBLE LOVE. 

stocks and stones in my house, and go to confession and 
eat fish o* Fridays like a Papist ? Very pretty indeed, and 
mighty like to be ! Out on thy damnable idols and super- 
stitions and priestcraft ! But there's an end of it all for 'ee 
now, for IVe made my mind up, and I'll have no more shilly- 
shallying. If thou won't obey tne^ thou shalt obey another 
man, for IVe promised 'ee to wife this very day, and Master 
Webb has got my word on it !" 

O poor little Dorothy ! Poor little white ghostly face, poor 
little quivering hands that clutched each other in horror as 
the miserable tidings were told ! And poor little gasping, 
tremulous voice, that cried out piteously, "Father! father!" 

" It's no sort o' use bullying me," returned Humphrey, 
doggedly. " Get about thy business, and behave as a good 
daughter should. Most girls 'ud be glad enough to get such 
a mate as Master Nicholas, well-to-do and young withal, but 
as for thee — there, I'm ashamed o* thee, Dorothy, thou'rt 
worse than a heathen ! No words with me, wench. I'll not 
budge an inch if thou worry and fret till midnight !" 

So Dorothy Pratt went off in silence to her little bed- 
chamber, and there she knelt down by the settle in front of 
the open lattice, through which the warm sunlight streamed 
gloriously and free. And she prayed in the bitterness of 
her heart, and in the blindness of tears that fell like rain, 
"O Lord, how long? how long?" 




CHAPTER V. 

now MARVEL WAS INVITED TO A " BAL MASQUE." 

Marvel Maxwell waited a good hour at the corner of 
Yew-lane that Sunday evening before Dorothy came. And 
when at last she appeared, how changed she was since only 
that morning ! No smile, no light brisk step, no lifted bright 
brown eyes. What terrible thing could have happened in 
that short time, he wondered, so to whiten the poor little 
cheeks, and to make the drooping eyelids so red and swollen 
and heavy? Then a sharp spasm of remorse came into his 
mind, and he said to himself that perhaps it was all his 
doing, and that old Pratt had found out her apostasy from 
Puritanism, and had been angry with her in consequence. 
But of worse than this he did not think. 

"Why, Dorothy!" cried he, looking earnestly into her 
face as they met, — ^that face that was always so sweet to 



NOBLE LOVE. 24I 

see, and sweeter now in its very sadness than any other face 
upon earth in its joy, — " Why, Dorothy ! what ails you ? 
Has your father been rating at you ? Oh, don't cry, — don't 
cry, so ! — tell me everything. What is it, Dorothy ?" 

For at the first sound of that dear voice, the poor little 
maid's grief overflowed her heart, full as it was almost to 
bursting: and she sat down on the daffodil -bank by the 
roadside and put her basket on the ground. And she 
covered with her two shivering hands the eyes that would 
weep and the tears that would fall 

Then Marvel sat down by her, as they had sat together 
in the wood more than two months ago, and begged her 
to tell him all that had happened to her at home. So she 
told him every whit, and how she knew her father's mind 
was made up at last; and what a stern austere man he 
would be when he chose it, and how she had rather die 
again and again than be Nicholas Webb's wife. 

*' But indeed, my Lord," said she, " I cannot tell what hath 
made father take this sudden fancy to have me wedded 
off-hand. For of late you know I told you he has scarce 
spoken at all on the matter, and Master Webb has not 
been near our house, nor has he held any manner of con- 
verse with me for a good three weeks. I thought it was all 
over and done : — ^and now ! Oh I am so very, very, very 
miserable !" 

And she wept bitterly. 

But Marvel sat still and mused awhile, casting about in 
his mind what he could do to help her in this strait. 

Certainly, as Dorothy said, it was a sudden fancy of old 
Pratt's, seeing how matters had stood of late, and a strange 
fancy too, for the agreement between him and Nicholas was 
made on Sunday morning, before Humphrey knew of his 
daughter's attendance at church. Therefore it could have had 
nothing to do with his vexation at her conduct on that score. 
And Nicholas himself! Why had he maintained so cold a 
demeanour towards Dorothy for so long, only to burst out 
afresh in this fashion, just as she was persuaded of his in- 
difference } There must be another reason, — something more 
behind the scenes than the weaver had thought fit to tell 
Dorothy. How should he get at it.^ Anyhow, it must be 
known to Nicholas. But it would be as foolish to ask the 
lodge -keeper of the mystery, as to expect that old Pratt 
would tell it him or his daughter. Then an idea, like a 
bright ray of sunlight, crossed his thoughts, " Thank God," 
he thought, "there is no misfortune comes to men under 
the sun that may not be turned to some golden luck, if 
only there be sense in mortal minds to discern the good 
clearly, and to use the evil well." 

R 




242 NOBLE LOVE. 

But the next moment he doubted whether his scheme 
were really fair and honest, and a shadow came over his 
brow again as he repeated to himself, "It is not lawful to 
deceive any man knowingly, nor to do evil that good may 
come." Yet there was no other way, and this was so easy, 
so ingenious, so efficient, and withal it would be such a 
merry frolic. 

Marvel was a young man, and the mirthful enterprise and 
humour of young blood prevailed. " And besides," he argued, 
*' if such a saint as the great Apostle himself did well to be 
' all things to all men, if by chance he might catch some ;' 
shall it be blame to me if I follow his example in one 
instance?" 

Just then Dorothy raised her soft jacinth brown eyes and 
looked him in the face, wondering at his long silence : and 
the look went to the young man's heart, and he debated with 
himself no longer. He felt that at all risks Dorothy's life 
must be saved from the horrible misery that threatened to 
blight and overshadow it so completely. And if a certain 
strange accident opened to him a means for saving it, the 
lesser evil was surely preferable to the greater. 

"Dorothy!" he cried, springing up and standing before 
her, " I have it ! I have found a way to help you. Cheer 
up little one, for I can put everything straight for you I hope. 
So don't cry any more at all, but only hope for the best, and 
wish me luck. And now let us go on our way to old dame 
Alice, or she will wonder what can have become of you." 

But Marvel did not tell Dorothy what his plan for her 
rescue was, lest she should have something to say against it. 

So they went together on their errand, and our little 
heroine, whose faith in her friend's infallibility was implicit, 
walked homeward afterwards with a far lighter heart and 
blither step than had been hers when she set out that 
evening. 

And when they parted at the turning of the lane, there 
was a sparkle of hopeful thanks in the eyes she lifted to 
his, and a flush of bright glad colour upon the dimpled 
cheeks and on the soft-parted lips that whispered Dorothy's 
good-bye. And Marvel went on his way musing, and as he 
went a smile flitted to and fro over his face, coming and 
going like sunshine on a cloudy day, for he was thinking of 
the adventure he proposed for himself on the morrow, and 
of the rare entertainment it was likely to afford him. 

Just as he set foot within the great paved hall of Rowan 
Court, an oaken door on his right opened, and a pretty mis- 
chievous-looking face with bright flaxen curls hanging round 
it and over the white forehead, in royalist fashion, peeped 
out at him. 



NOBLE LOVE. 243 

" Oh, Marvel ! I'm so glad you've come home. Tm hungry 
as a hunter, but I ordered Isaac not to serve supper till your 
return, like a dutiful sister as I am. What has made you so 
late? But here," she cried, holding up a letter in her little 
jewelled hand, "is an invitation from our neighbour Baron 
Shakeshaft for you to be present at his May-day revel to- 
morrow night. He gives a dance to his peasantry, and our 
villagers are asked to join likewise, if they be not too prudish 
for such impious mirth. They are to have a May-pole and 
a feast under the trees, and all sorts of games in the day- 
time: and in the evening the baron gives a dance indoors 
to his own guests, and you are all to go like masqueraders, 
in mummer costume : I mean the baron's friends you know 
Marvel, not the peasants I What fine fun it will be for you, 
won't it ? And how shall you choose to dress ? Oh, I wish 
I was asked too, — it's a great shame!" And she pouted 
her pretty lips and shook her flaxen curls with playful in- 
dignation. 

" Why, fair mistress, how did you come to know all this ? 
Do you open letters that do not belong to you .?" laughed 
Marvel gaily, as he snatched at the missive Lady Edith 
held over his head, while she stood on tiptoe before him. 

"No," she answered, yielding the contest and the note 
together ; " certainly not, most suspicious Marvel ! But the 
baron's groom, who brought your letter this evening, told 
me the purport of his embassy. Is your Grace's august 
displeasure allayed ?" 

"By all means, madam, allow me to tender my humble 
apology to your sweetness for my base insinuations against 
your unimpeachable honesty. And now let us fall to, for 
I am no less hungry than you are." 

So they entered the supper-room together. 

It was a long old-fashioned apartment, more like a hall 
than a parlour, and furnished rather scantily, as we should 
think in these luxurious days. There were straight-backed 
carved oak chairs ; one or two mirrors, a spinet, a large 
bookcase, a side -board and several great family portraits 
in heavy gilded frames, hung each in its particular panel, 
as each succeeded each in the line of Rowan ancestry. 

But the long table in the midst of the room was certainly 
not open to censure on the score of scant garniture. For it 
bore steaming soups and cold meats, and fried collops, and 
not least, a plentiful jug of brown ale, to all of which Marvel 
did full justice. 

Lady Maxwell had supped early, and retired to her room, 
as her general custom was on Sundays, which, to her delicate 
state of health, were fatiguing days. So Edith and her 
brother had the conversation all to themselves; and as it 

R 2 



244 NOBLE LOVE. 

ran wholly upon a certain point of interest in our story, it 
is just as well that it should be recorded here. Marvel's 
thoughts had been busy ever since the receipt of Baron 
Shakeshaft's letter, with meditations on the strange oppor- 
tuneness of the invitation. It was the very thing he wanted 
to complete his plot. Now everything would run on greased 
wheels ; and the favour he had to ask of his sister that night 
would not appear to her cither whimsical or suspicious. 
True, he might almost have anticipated such an event as 
that of which he had just been informed ; for it was always 
the custom for neighbouring nobles to exchange hospitalities 
on certain holydays and festivals ; and the May-day mum- 
ming was a great occasion in those times. "But neverthe- 
less," he said to himself as he gulped down his last draught 
of ale, " ' a word spoken in due season, how good it is.* " 

"Edith," he asked, "will you turn out some of your old 
charade properties, and dress me up to-morrow evening? 
I know you have a rare store of wigs and beards, and the 
like, in some old closet of yours upstairs." 

"By all means!" she answered, laughing merrily. "My 
theatrical wardrobe is at your service ; and I think I may 
promise you a goodly selection, for I have all manner of 
disguises and masques, which were manufactured, you re- 
member Marvel, for our frolic on Christmas Eve." 

" Nothing could be better then, Edith. To-morrow night 
shall behold a transformation, that shall be a marvel indeed 
to all masqueraders. Laugh at my jest please, madam, and 
when you have poured out a glass of sack for yourself, pass 
the flagon to me. And now if you have finished your meal, 
bid old Isaac hither to clear the table ; and let us end the 
evening with that beautiful Magnificat service that I love so 
much to sing with you." 

So the butler was summoned and the supper dishes carried 
away, and Lady Edith repaired to her spinet, while Marvel 
took his seat beside her on a low velvet ottoman. Then the 
echoes of the great old hall rose and fell to the sound of two 
sweet young voices that sang together the glorious hymn of 
the ever- blessed Mary. 



\ 



CHAPTER VI. 

CONCERNING A BATTLE, AND WHAT CAME OF IT. 

Late in the afternoon of the next day. Marvel sent a 

servant to the park lodge to bid Nicholas Webb come up 

and speak with his lord in the mansion hall. And when 

the keeper entered the corridor. Marvel was there already, 

• with a sealed note in his hand. 



NOBLE LOVE. 245: 

"Good-day, Nicholas," said he, pleasantly, as his Puritan 
vassal appeared ; " I have an errand for you to do this after- 
noon, for I was sure one so sober-minded as you would have 
no part in these gay May-day revellings of our good neigh- 
bours. So I want you to saddle roan Berry at once, and 
ride over to Shrewsbury, to deliver this letter to Master 
Noakes, the timber- merchant. Get yourself a meal at the 
inn, and bait the mare, or if it like you better, sleep there, 
and ride home on the morrow. Take your own course, 
Nicholas, for I know you are to be trusted, and bring the 
reckoning to me. And a pleasant journey to you." 

Marvel felt it expedient to add this last little piece of flat- 
tery to the directions he had given, for Webb's brow clouded 
blackly, and the comers of his bearded mouth took a sullen 
curve, when he heard his master's commands. By way, too, 
of further douceur, Marvel, who knew the Puritan's weak- 
nesses of appetite, produced a beaker of amber ale, and 
pouring a copious draught of the soothing liquor into a 
silver -chased goblet, he handed it graciously to his am- 
bassador, and bade him refresh himself before his ride. 
And when Nicholas wiped the foam from his lips, they 
had recovered their normal lines, and he pocketed Marvel's 
note with a far more agreeable air than might have been 
expected from his previous expression of physiognomy. 

" Ah," said the young baron under his breath, as he stood 
at the open door and watched the man turn down the path 
towards the stables, "so far so good. I have got you out 
of the way till to-morrow, my fine fellow; for even if you 
ride back from Shrewsbury to-night, you can't get home 
till past ten, and long before then my little game will be 
played out. But I'll see you safe through the gates before 
I begin my preparations." 

Half-an-hour after this, as the sun began to decline in the 
west, Nicholas Webb was on his road out of the village. 
And Marvel, in a high state of glee, eyed him from the top- 
most window of the mansion, indulging himself the while 
in a selection of curious contortions and grimaces, expressive 
of his own intense satisfaction at the state of affairs. Then, 
as the tail of roan Berry whisked out of sight round the 
last turning of the road, Marvel closed the casement, and 
ran briskly downstairs into the hall, where he snatched his 
hat from its accustomed peg, and hastily donning it, sped 
down the broad gravel to the keeper's deserted dwelling. 
Shutting the door carefully, lest he should be espied from 
without. Marvel entered Master Webb's bed-chamber, and 
selected from his closet a full suit of the keeper's clothes, 
— ^hose, boots, belt, and jerkin inclusive. To these he added 
a large gray mantle, which served as a wrapper for the 
whole bundle, and re-fastening the closet, he issued forth 



24& NOBLE LOVE. 

triumphantly on his return to the mansion. At the door 
of his own apartment he met his sister. Lady Edith, with 
a merry smile about her pretty lips, and a mirthful ring in 
her silvery-toned voice. 

" There," cried she, " IVe carried them all into your room ! 
Such an outfit, — beards and moustaches, and wigs of all 
shapes and colours ! Pray make a becoming selection. But 
what in the name of all that's astonishing have you there ? 
Is this your costume ? What is it ? Oh, do let me see !" 

"No, no, not yet!" cried Marvel, running past her into 
his room. " Wait till I'm dressed, and then you shall stare 
to your heart's content. The mysterious toilette of Proteus 
is about to begin." 

So Edith tripped off along the corridor, laughing musically, 
and Marvel remained a full hour and more in the seclusion 
of his chamber, dressing, arranging, trimming, and adapting 
himself and his costume before a large cheval looking-glass. 
So it was well-nigh eight o'clock before he presented himself 
at the door of his sister's boudoir, arrayed, as she believed, 
for Baron Shakeshaft's masquerade, but as Marvel himself 
intended, for a campaign on behalf of Dorothy Pratt 

**Why, how's this?" cried Lady Edith, as the sheep in 
wolf's clothing appeared before her. "Nicholas! what are 
you doing here.^ I thought you were gone on an errand 
for your master. What is it you want? Can't you speak, 
man ? NICHOLAS ! " 

For Marvel suddenly put his arms about her neck, and 
kissed her. 

" Little simpleton," said he in a fit of laughter, and with 
no small delight at such an unequivocal proof of his success, 
" don't you know your own brother ? But isn't it capital, — 
sublime, — magnificent ?" 

Edith sank down on a large satin-cushioned sofa as Marvel 
turned himself round and round for her inspection, imitating 
his keeper's manner, and counterfeiting his puritanic twang 
in a style that could not fail to place the excellence of his 
histrionic talent beyond dispute. 

" Well," exclaimed she at length, her bewilderment giving 
gradual place to admiration, " this is the very cleverest dis- 
guise I ever beheld. But you have certainly chosen a most 
appropriate character. Marvel, for to tell the truth I always 
thought you like Nicholas, save that your hair is long, 
your skin fairer, and your chin beardless. However, my 
abundant repository I see has rectified all deficiencies, and 
those pimples and blotches with which you have adorned 
your nose and cheeks are really admirable." And she threw 
herself back upon the cushions in an ecstasy of merriment, 
and well-nigh choked with laughter. 

" But indeed. Marvel," she added presently in graver tones. 



NOBLE LOVE. 




NOBLE LOVE. 247 

rising as she spoke, and putting one little white hand upon 
each of her brother's shoulders, as she gazed admiringly at 
him, "I seriously believe that if the true Nicholas were to 
stand by your side now, I should not be able to decide on 
the original. So this is the secret of your prodigious bundle ! 
And you have sent the poor knave to Shrewsbury in order 
that you might safely plunder his wardrobe! Indeed, you 
evince remarkable aptitude for military tactics, brother, and 
if you held your proper position, ought certainly to command 
his gracious Majesty's forces. But have you ordered a horse, 
for it is time you should depart, I think. Marvel?" 

" I have no need of a horse, Edith," returned he, carelessly. 
" 'Tis but a little way to go, and I have taken a great gray 
cloak out of that varlet's closet, in which I wrapped up all 
his costume when I carried it from the lodge, and in which 
I purpose also to envelope myself. It is a lovely evening, 
and I shall enjoy a stroll across the park amazingly. Good- 
bye, sister mine." 

Then the door closed behind him, and a minute afterwards 
Edith heard his quick step upon the staircase as she drew her 
canvas frame nearer the lamplight, and sat down to embroider, 
still smiling at the thought of Marvel's merry conceit 

As for the young noble himself, he was bent on a very 
different diversion from that which bis sister imagined oc- 
cupied his fancy. For fear, however, that she should be 
watching him from some impossible window, and further- 
more to avoid meeting any one on his way to old Pratt's 
cottage. Marvel took a circuitous path that led across the 
park-lands in the direction of Baron Shakeshaft's estate. 

Dusk was fast giving place to darkness^ and the trees 
around him already looked weird and shadowy against the 
purple sky, when Marvel reached the borders of the wood. 
He turned down a narrow curving lane that led off the high 
road towards the village, but he had not gone very far along 
it before his ears were assailed by loud cries and the noise 
of blows, and of many scuffling feet. Marvel paused a mo- 
ment and listened^ to make sure from whence this hubbub 
proceeded. His first thought was to avoid the squabble, 
lest any unpleasant recognition of his identity should take 
place in consequence of the rough handling with which ex- 
cited crowds are apt to welcome any addition to their num- 
ber. But his mind changed when he heard above the angry 
shouts of the combatants a shrill quavering cry, almost 
pitched to a shriek, and entreating every moment for a 
little mercy. " Good people," it cried, " what are you 
about .^ Will you pound a poor old man to death .^ I 
assure you she said herself she had no mind to dance. 
Help, help, some one, or I shall be beat to a jelly I " 



248 NOBLE LOVE. 

Marvel did not wait to think any more. He ran hastily 
forward, and the next moment rounded the corner of the 
lane; and found himself close upon the fray. In the middle 
of the path was a mob of gaily-dressed young men from 
the neighbouring demesne, armed with stones, mud, and 
hedge-stakes, beating, pelting, pommelling, and abusing at 
the tops of their voices some unfortunate individual who 
had incurred their displeasure. It was too dark now to 
discern faces very clearly, but Marvel could tell from the 
feeble whimperings of the sufferer that he was an old man, 
and that his powers of resistance were well-nigh exhausted. 

**For shame, you bullies!" the disgusted baron burst out 
in a storm of indignation, "What, a dozen of you against 
one, and he an old man! Give place, there, or it will be 
worse for you !" 

And he laid about him so lustily with his clenched fists 
that in less than a minute he stood beside the victim, and 
had hit such a sounding blow on the face of the first who 
attempted to be forward, that the rest took warning and fell 
back a few paces. 

"Who are you.^" cried one. "Who sent you here, I 
should like to know? Leave us alone, and let us manage 
our own affairs." 

*' Do you know," shouted another, " who that old scarecrow 
is ? He's a Puritan miser, who won't let his daughter dance. 
His own daughter, who's the comeliest maid in all the country ; 
and the girls wanted to make her Queen o' the May at our 
merrymaking, but this old frump wouldn't let her come." 

" Let me get at him," roared a third. " I'll teach him to 
keep a pretty girl indoors when her mates are footing it on 
the greensward 1" 

" Indeed, indeed," pleaded the old man, shielding his face 
with his hands from the menacing fists uplifted about him, 
" Indeed she wouldn't have danced, nor have been Queen 
either, even if I had been out of the question. She said of 
her own free will that she had no humour for such sports." 

" That's because you've worried her out of all spirit, then," 
retorted the first speaker; "because you've badgered, and 
crossed, and fretted her beyond bearing, till she's lost all 
heart for mirth and frolic. Pah, you old toad ; I'd like to 
have the giving o' you your deserts ! Egad, wouldn't I lay 
it on sturdily!" 

" Now, now," shouted Marvel ; " stand back all of you, 
you've done mischief enough for once. Get back to your 
place, and tell your baron, with my respects, to keep his 
tenants at home for the future, for they've not learnt yet 
to behave themselves among company. Make way, I tell 
you, and stand back, if you don't want to lie down instead I 



NOBLE LOVE. 249 

And now come along, old man. Whoever you are, these 
young jackanapeses should have had greater respect for your 
gray hairs than to use you thus." 

So Marvel elbowed and fought his way out of the crowd 
with the abused Puritan clinging fast to his arm ; and the 
resistance offered by the assailants soon weakened as they 
perceived the determination of their new opponent. 

** By old Noll himself, though," said one, " this fellow knows 
how to use his wrists." 

" He's a plucky devil enough," quoth another, who had just 
received a fortnight's black eye. " Come, let's be off. WeVe 
had our revenge, as he says — now let the old beast go." 

Which sage advice apparently had its due effect, for one 
by one the insurgents dropped off and melted away almost 
imperceptibly into the darkness, leaving their victim and 
his new friend to pursue their own road in peace. 

For some moments the old man neither spoke aloud nor 
looked at Marvel. He untied from his neck a long linen 
scarf, with which he carefully wiped the smears of mud from 
his face and beard, muttering to himself the while certain 
angry and unscriptural imprecations against his persecutors. 
When this rough toilette was completed, he tucked away 
the scarf into his pouch pocket, and for the first time raised 
his eyes inquiringly to the face of his deliverer. But the 
result of his inspection was speedy and satisfactory enough, 
for a sudden start and a cry of recognition did fresh honour 
to Marvel's disguise. 

•* Eh, what ? is it the moonlight, or do I really see beside 
me my dear friend Nicholas ? Ah, deary, deary ! I didn't 
know thee, man, by thy voice, which may serve to prove to 
thee how those young dogs had beaten my senses out of me. 
And I am so blind, so blind ; my poor eyes get worse and 
worse, Nicholas, but in such twilight as this they are no eyes 
at all. Furthermore it hath never been thy wont to plunge 
thus into the midst of a brawl. I have always known thee 
for a cautious man, shy of tumults and raised fists, as befits 
a good Christian. Well, well, I should surely have been 
dead without thee this time. May the Lord wipe those 
young serpents off the face of the earth ! But what made 
thee take such a road, man ? Wert thou not coming to see 
me to-night after thine agreement i I told Dorothy yesterday 
that matters were settled between thee and me. Thou dost 
not speak. What ails thee .^" 

Truly poor Marvel knew not how to answer, for he feared 
by some inadvertence to betray his real identity to his com- 
panion, or at least to discover himself as an impostor. How- 
ever, the mention of Dorothy's name in connection with the 
one he himself assumed, re-assured him, and he began to hope 



250 NOBLE LOVE. 

that he had fallen in thus accidentally with old Pratt himself. 
And this was really the case. With an effort Marvel re- 
gained his self-possession, and adopting the puritanic tone 
of his lodge-keeper, made the old man the most appropriate 
reply he could concoct under such embarrassing circum- 
stances. 

" So thou didst not know me, friend ? That I suppose is 
because thou didst not look at me, for I think thou art 
scarcely blind enough as yet not to know the face of 
Nicholas Webb, even in the twilight. But I would not have 
taken part with any other than thee against such contu- 
macious rogues." 

" Ah, Nicholas, Nicholas ! it is not for me thou didst fight, 
man, but for thy mistress, Dorothy. Is't not so.^ Thou 
knowest if I were slain thou wouldst stand but a poor chance 
of getting her to wife. Ah, ah, I have thee there, certie. 
Eh, Nicholas .J^" 

Marvel hesitated in his rejoinder. 

" Shall I see her to-night, friend }'* 

"Ay, ay, thou*lt see her, Nicholas, safe enow. But I 
question if she frets very mightily for thine appearing. By 
the way, man, hast thou brought tAe money V 

Old Pratt's voice dropped to a low tone as he said these 
last words, and when they were said he eyed his companion 
so keenly and so closely that Marvel's face blanched beneath 
its painted pimples. 

"The money .^" he stammered, perceiving that he must 
answer something. "What, to-night.^ I thought, — per- 
haps, — " 

" Come now, Nicholas ; as the Lord liveth, this is no fair 
play of thine. I agreed with thee yester- morning at the 
tavern that the girl should be thy wife next week, whether 
she would or no, so thou on thy part shouldst give me 
twenty pounds to-day. Now I began my share of the 
business honestly, for I broke the news to her as soon as 
I came away from talking with thee, and rare work I had 
of it I can teU'ee, Nicholas. And now will ye be a knave 
after all, and the bond signed between us V 

But Marvel's heart leapt into his throat, and he gasped 
for breath. So this vile piece of buying and selling was the 
cause of poor little Dorothy's new anguish, — that young 
man's sensual passion, this old man's greed of gold. 

" Stop ! " he cried hastily, laying his hand on Pratt's 
shoulder, for he was afraid lest in the heat of his righteous 
indignation the Puritan might turn away and leave him. " Stop, 
man, *and hear me out first. I was going to tell thee I 
couldn't •^ring the money to-night because, — because, — 
I have no bag for so large a sum, and I like not to carry 



K'OBLE love:. ±^i 

coin loose in my pouch. But to-morrow I will take care 
that my debt shall be fully paid thee, to the very last 
farthing, and thou shaft have thy measure pressed down, 
shaken together, and running over." 

And Marvel spoke earnestly, for he meant what he said 
in good sooth. 

" Well, well," replied the weaver, mollified, " I see thou art 
an honourable man after all. I was hasty, Nicholas, but 
the tongue, thou knowest, is an unruly member. So by the 
same token is Mistress Dorothy. I hope thou mayest find 
her more obedient to thee as a wife than she hath been to 
me as a daughter. But here we are, — turn in, turn in. 
Supper must be almost spoiled with the waiting, for I was 
coming home from tavern when those young sinners of 
Baron Shakeshaft's met me, — ill-luck befall them. And 
they must have belaboured and reviled me a full twenty 
minutes, I take it, to judge by the bruises and sores I feel 
all over my body." 



CHAPTER VII. 

WHEREIN HUMPHREY PRATT TELLS A SECRET. 

Little Dorothy Pratt stood before the window, looking 
up at the moon and the clear evening sky. 

" How bright and how many," she thought, " are the eyes 
of God's heaven at night, and yet the worst deeds that are 
done among men are done beneath the stars! And for all 
that, God Who is patient still, bearing all things and en- 
during all things, is perfect in goodness and in power. God 
has been patient in the midst of perpetual injury and slander 
for thousands of long years, and shall I, who am so far 
from His perfection, be impatient under the trials of a little 
life-time r 

She looked so beautiful in her white Puritan cape and 
gray dress, standing with clasped hands in the broad moon- 
light, — so beautiful and so good, that Pratt's companion, 
who carried Marvel's heart under the garb of Nicholas, 
paused on the threshold, and watched her with a feeling 
akin to worship. 

But Dorothy turned and looked at him, and she took him 
as his sister Edith and as old Pratt had done, for her un- 
worthy lover, the lodge -keeper. Then in a moment the 
hot red blood flashed over all her face from chin to fore- 
head, and the next she was deadly pale, and her hands 



253 NOBLE LOVE. 

trembled as she laid on the board another trencher and 
another cup for her father's guest. 

Marvel longed to make her some sign by which she might 
know him, but Dorothy, after the first glance, studiously 
kept her eyes turned from his, and it was in vain that he 
coughed and signalled to attract her attention, for she neither 
heard nor saw him. 

Old Pratt sat down to the supper-table with a more 
cheerful face than that he had brought through the porch, 
for like his ally Nicholas he loved good ale, and the draughts 
he had swallowed that evening at the tavern had been con- 
siderably shaken down with subsequent rough treatment 

" Come, man," quoth he, emerging redder and more pimply 
than ever from his first pull at the tankard, " thou dost not 
drink!" 

But Marvel was looking at Dorothy. 

"Ah, I see," cried Humphrey, "thou wouldst first take 
fit greeting of thine elected wife, eh Nicholas! Dorothy, 
wench, — hither, and buss thy Nicholas! Dost thou forget 
that he will be thine husband before the next new moon ?" 

She came forward falteringly two or three steps, and then 
stood still, and suddenly covered her face with her hands. 

" Dost hear me, little baggage r* roared her father; "come 
hither, I say, and kiss Master Nicholas!" 

" No, no, let be," pleaded Marvel, grasping the weaver by 
the sleeve ; " thou seest, friend, she likes it not, it goes 
against her maid's modesty !" 

But old Humphrey was in a passion. 

'* Tut tut, man," he shouted, " I say she sAa//, and Til be 
obeyed ! She's as obstinate as a mule I Dorothy, do my 
bidding ! I tell thee, thou art already this man's wife, — ^his 
wi/e, minx, as surely as thou'rt a living woman !" 

" O father, father, I can't !" 

The words were spoken with a low gasping sob, so terrible 
in its despair and bitterness that they smote to Marvel's 
heart like sword stabs. 

He sprang from his seat, but old Pratt was before him, 
and Marvel was too late to intercept the angry blow that 
fell full on Dorothy's bosom. 

For a second the room and the warm flicker of the lamp- 
light reeled confusedly about the young baron, and the floor 
seemed to whirl under his feet. He caught Dorothy pas- 
sionately in his arms, but she no sooner felt the touch of 
his embrace than a sudden shudder restored her self-pos- 
session, and she fled from him into her own chamber and 
shut the door. 

Then Marvel turned fiercely upon the old weaver, with 
a hot tongue and clenched fists, till a moment's recollection 



NOBLE LOVE. 253 

changed his purpose, and he dropped into his chair again 
and kept silence. 

Old Pratt walked to the table, replenished his tankard, 
and drank off its contents at a single draught, before he 
spoke again. Then he drew his chair towards the fireplace, 
and judicially sat dgwn, as if for a debate, evidently expect- 
ing his companion to begin the conversation upon some 
pre-determined subject. 

But Marvel was mute with anger. So, after waiting for 
a little while, the old man cleared his husky voice once or 
twice from the rising beer-bubbles, and said shortly, ** Thou 
seest, Nicholas, she cannot abide thee." 

Marvel acquiesced with a nod of his head and a grunt, 
which might have been taken for either approval or dis- 
approbation of Dorothy's tastes. He could not bring him- 
self to speak intelligibly yet, for the little maid's cry still 
rang in his ears, and his throat ached with a strange stiff 
sense of oppression. 

So Humphrey Pratt went on : — 

"I've had more trouble with her than thou dost wot of, 
friend Nicholas. She hath been a stone of stumbling in my 
path, and a thorn in my side these eighteen years. Thou 
seest what I suffered on her account to-night, at the hands 
of those young ruffians whom Satan set on to buffet me. 
Well, Nicholas, I tell thee, it's not the first time I've been 
ill-treated and abused for the like. It's not long since the 
young fellows of our own town, and a parcel of idle girls who 
ought to have kept out of such unseemly brawls, beset me 
and beat me foully on my own door-step ! And all for what, 
think you, Nicholas.^ Why this, just as I tell it you man. 
Pious Master Nipper's lawing at the tavern that quarter was 
rather heavier than he himself could pay, so we got up a sub- 
scription among us, as you must remember, Nicholas, to help 
him out of his difficulty. I'm a poor man, you know, friend, 
— a poor man, — and I didn't quite see my way to giving 
my share of the money we agreed on, but I knew Dorothy 
earned more than she could well spend on herself. So I came 
home, and I said, 'Dorothy, give me some of thy silver 
crowns to help pay good Master Nipper's reckoning, and 
the Lord reward thee!' Says she, 'I've no money to give, 
father, it's all spent' Well, I couldn't believe it, so I went 
and turned out her* box, and sure enow, there was ne'er 
a sixpenny-bit in it Says I, 'Dorothy, thou canst not 
ha' spent all thy week's wage on thyself; what hast thou 
done wi' it then.^' 'Father,' she says, 'I spend it always, 
every week, just the same.' So I got a piece hot then, as 
is my way at times, and I answered, ' Dorothy, if 'ee don't 
.tell me this minute what thou'st done with that money 



254 NOBLE love; 

o' thine, 1*11 beat thee till I know. Dost 'ee buy finery 
with it like the sinners?* *No, father,* she says, 'it isn*t 
anything for myself indeed, but I can*t tell thee more than 
that about it.* ' Can*t forsooth,* quoth I, * well, we'll see to 
that!* But she stood up there before me, as hard and as 
brazen as a church-bell, and I took l\er by the shoulders 
and shook her, but I couldn*t shake a single word out 
So then I laid about her with my staff, roundly enough, 
Nicholas ; and every minute I stopped beating and asked 
her, 'Wilt tell me now, Dorothy, and 1*11 leave drubbing 
thee?* But she says each time, 'No, father, thee may'st 
drub, for I can*t tell.* So I was forced to go on beating 
till I was just tired out, and then I let her go. But she 
took on sick or stiff or something, the next day, and lay 
a-bed instead of going about her work as usual, which I am 
convinced was pure obstinacy and contumaciousness. So, 
close upon noon, in comes a saucy wench from the neigh- 
bour's house where Dorothy ought to have been at her 
baking, and says she, 'Dorothy, what ails thee that thou 
dost not come to bake to-day ?' Whereat the young baggage 
hangs her head and says nothing at all, so the other, taking 
her for a sluggard, hauls her half out of bed, and bids her 
not be lazy, but get up and dress. Well, Dorothy happened 
to have one or two bruises and marks about her shoulders, 
and this impudent hussy, as soon as she catches sight o' them, 
yells out and hustles her back into her blanket, and bounces 
into the room where I was, like a young tigress. Says she, 
'You've been beating your daughter, you old knave! I've 
had her out o' bed and seen the scars, and she can't stand ;' 
and with that she tells me all that's been going on betwixt 
her and Dorothy in the next chamber, as I've told you, and 
threatens me with a cudgelling — me — in my own house, 
Nicholas ! Then off she goes again out of the place, ranting 
and raging all manner of ungodliness, and leaves me in 
peace, as I thought. But that very evening as I crossed 
the porch, beshrew me, Nicholas, if a whole herd of young 
vixens and work-shop 'prentices didn't fall on me, and this 
girl at the head o* the mob, shouting and egging the others 
on to assault me, Nicholas ! How is a man to keep any 
just authority over his children, if such outrages are to be 
permitted ? But, thank the Lord, I am not like Eli ; I never 
failed in my duty of correction towards Dorothy ! Ah, my 
dear friend, that was indeed a comforting reflection to me 
in the midst of the grievous pain I endured all that night, 
for I could get no sleep for the wounds and the sores they 
had given me. Next day I went round to the neighbours, 
— as well as I could walk, Nicholas, which was but poorly, 
— and complained how their sons and their daughters had 



NOBLE LOVE. 255 

behaved, and they, for all answer, Nicholas, told me to my 
face they were sorry I was hurt, but they hoped I would 
keep my hands off their Dorothy in future ! 

" Nicholas ! Nicholas ! it's a bad world, and in the midst 
of so much wickedness it ought to be a cause o' deep grati- 
tude to you and me that we are among the remnant o' the 
elect! When I look on that minister of Beelzebub, for in- 
stance, our young baron's priest, and think, 'Thou, O man 
of sin, art destined by God to eternal torment,' with what 
intense thankfulness I feel myself able to conclude, 'But 
I, by the grace of the same God, am assured of obtaining 
heaven!'" 

Herewith old Pratt drew himself together and fell back 
in his chair with the face and manner of an ecstatic martyr. 
But there was in all this long rigmarole of his, so strong an 
element of entertainment, and the speaker's air and counte- 
nance were so savoury to Marvel's intellectual palate, that, 
in spite of the bitterness and disgust at his heart, the young 
noble could scarcely conceal his mirth. 

"Thou speakest truly, neighbour," said he, constraining 
himself to reply seriously, and putting on an air of puritanic 
piety ; " for my part, I own, and may God foi^ive me if I 
err, that it affords me considerable gratification to reflect 
on the reckoning that awaits some people for their ill-deeds ! 
Yet I am far from wishing that even they should be con- 
signed to eternal punishment! But now about this affair 
of Dorothy, and your twenty pounds." 

"Ay, ay," quoth the weaver, more briskly; "about my 
twenty pounds!" And his gray eyes twinkled with greed, 
beneath their steep overhanging brows. 

"Thou seest, Nicholas, it is only fair and just that if 
I have had the care and the upbringing of thy wife, and 
all the labour of insisting on the match between you, and 
o' breaking her into it, which isn't done yet mind 'ee, 
Nicholas, — besides the trouble and the dole she hath wrought 
me otherwise, whereof I have told thee ; it is, I say, but fair 
and just that I should have some reckoning for my pains. 
And besides, sith matters are settled between us now, and 
we are old friends, Nicholas, — old friends, — I will tell 'ee 
a piece of a secret, man, wherewith to stuff thy wedding 
pillow. But do as thou'lt list about telling it to thy wife, 
for I've always kept it away from her for my part, lest if 
she knew it, she should be more undutiful and fro ward than 
ever. And she's wild and headstrong enow without it." 

He paused and looked dubiously towards the door of his 
daughter's chamber, and then back again to the anxious face 
of the pretending lodge-keeper, and cleared his throat again 
to make way for the news. 



256 NOBLE LOVE. 

Four tankards of ale, and the anticipation of twenty 
pounds, had evidently opened the old man's heart, or what- 
ever apology for that particular organ he may have possessed. 
At all events. Marvel was in luck. 

"I shouldn't tell 'ee, mind, Nicholas," he began, confi- 
dentially, "if I didn't want to shew thee that I deserve 
some credit for the care I have taken of a wench who has 
no really true claim on me, and who, mark me friend, can 
never have any sort o' claim on me after she is married, for 
she'll be even less to me then than she is now. I want to 
shew thee, too, since 'tis all settled between us, — signed and 
sealed, Nicholas, and the bond in my vest pocket, — that thou 
must not expect me to be looking after, nor maintaining, 
thy wife at my expense in any wise. When she leaves this 
house for thine, friend Nicholas, I wash my hands of her, 
you mark me ; I wash my hands of her altogether. That's 
understood between us, Nicholas ; for, to make a short story 
of it, man, Dorothy is not my daughter^ but my niece. Philip 
Pratt, her father, was my only brother, and he used to live 
in this house some twenty years ago as a bachelor, till he 
met by chance with a papistical milk-maid from another 
county, who came to Rowan on a visit to a friend. So 
they got married, Philip and the milk-maid, and went off 
together to live at her place, and she died about a year after 
this Dorothy was born ; and my brother died the next year, 
for grief of her loss, as the people said. And just before he 
died, Nicholas, he sent for me, as I was his only relative, and 
his wife's friends were all foreigners ; and says he, ' Hum- 
phrey, I'm going after my Marie,' that was the woman's 
name, ' and you're the only creature left in the world to take 
care o' the little one. So I leave her to you, and I want her 
brought up in my faith, and in her mother's, which is the 
faith of the Catholic Church of England, brother Humphrey,' 
says he. * Charge her by God's love, when she comes to an 
age to wed, that she take for her husband none other than 
a man of her father's creed, that she be not unequally yoked, 
and so come into perplexity and sorrow. And now,' quoth 
he, ' take her back with you when I am dead to my old house 
at Rowan, for I bought it with my money, and I leave it to 
you and to her, and all that is within it. Only, by the 
brotherhood between us, be sure you teach my Dorothy ^ 
to be a Churchwoman.' 

"And with that you see, Nicholas, he died ; and when I'd 
seen about the burial I came straight away here with the 
baby, and none o' the villagers knew but that she was my 
own child, for they'd never set eyes on me nor on her before. 
But as to bringing Dorothy up to Catholic ways and priest- 
craft, I wasn't going to lend myself to suchlike ungodliness, 



NOBLE LOVE. 257 

SO I taught her the Lord's Word, and held my tongue about 
her father and mother. 

" So thou seest, Nicholas, that my patience and forbearance 
towards the wench ought in good sooth to be well repaid, for 
she hath been nought but a trouble to me all her life ; and 
the money Philip left for her upbringing was not overmuch, 
seeing how poor I am, — how poor I am, Nicholas. Many 
a man in my place would have turned such a disobedient 
unchristian girl out o' doors, instead of fostering and housing 
and spending for her as I ha' done. But there's an end of 
it now, Nicholas, — you mind me, — an end of it, Til have no 
more to do with her !" 

With this old Pratt made an end of his confessions, sub- 
limely unconscious that they had in the least degree crimi- 
nated him in the eyes of his companion. As for Marvel, his 
joy and triumph knew no bounds. For now Dorothy's way 
was open and clear before her, her one difficulty was fully 
removed, and she might without any breach of filial discipline 
forego the religion of Humphrey Pratt ! Nay more, for the 
commands of her dead father still waited her obedience, and 
Dorothy's human duty was become one with the call of the 
Church ! 

Silently there in the little cottage parlour, as he sat in his 
strange disguise opposite the old miser. Marvel gave thanks 
in his heart to God, who had brought so great good out of 
so much evil. 

From without, the ding-dong of the bell in the church 
tower, chiming the hour of ten, came in through the closed 
lattice in deep musical tones that sounded in the ears of the 
young lord as sweetly as though they rang overhead in 
heaven. Marvel rose to his feet. 

" Farewell, gossip," said he, and saying it, his voice shook 
a little under its assumed twang; '*I must get home now, 
for it grows late." 

"Thou wilt surely come to-morrow night, Nicholas, after 
the wench is gone to bed, mind, and bring me those twenty 
pounds which are my due i Thou wilt not fail, Nicholas ; 
I have thy bond for the amount, remember." 

" Never fear, man," answered Marvel, ** my share in the 
matter shall be fully discharged. I will surely come hither 
to-morrow and pay out my reckoning with thee on Dorothy's 
account, surely as I am a man alive to-night, and a Christian 
gentleman !" 

" How sayest thou, Nicholas, — a gentleman } Body o' me, 
but this is rare news, and smacks withal of the speech which 
the ungodly use one to another!" 

Marvel flushed to the roots of his wig, for he feared he had 
betrayed himself through the earnestness of his protestations. 

S 



i 



258 NOBLE LOVE. 

"Beshrew me," cried he, "I ask pardon mine host, but 
that ale of thine methinks is potent, and the word slipped 
out unawares. I have heard it up at the Court among the 
baron's friends, and I suppose it got between my teeth that 
way and stuck there. But now 'tis fallen out, thou needest 
not fear to hear it again !" 

Old Pratt laughed. 

"I see, friend Nicholas," said he, "'evil communications 
corrupt good manners!' Is't not so.^ But beware of these 
priest-ridden swearers and drinkers, for they are given over 
as brands for the burning. Ah, what a world of iniquity it 
is, and how comfortable should we be, as I said before, to 
know we are numbered with the elect! Good-night, neigh- 
bour ! To-morrow evening after nine, remember!" 

" Good-night," said Marvel, " I'll remember ! And marry," 
he continued, as he gathered his mantle about him and 
strode up the road alone ; " I'll keep my promise honestly, 
and pay my lawing with you to-morrow, to the very last 
mite ! And a noble lawing it shall be, too, as you shall find 
to your cost, old Pharisee and hypocrite that you are, Hum- 
phrey Pratt !" 

CHAPTER VIII. 

DOROTHY STANDS AT BAY, AND AFFAIRS COME 
TO A CRISIS GENERALLY. 

Marvel's plan for Dorothy's rescue had not been put into 
execution an hour too soon. May-day night had been fixed 
upon by Humphrey Pratt and his supposed daughter's worthy 
admirer for the final settlement of their villainous compact, 
and the completion of the bargain between them. Hence, 
therefore, Nicholas Webb's ill-humour when his master sent 
him that evening to Shrewsbury, and thus arrested the pro- 
gress of the transaction. And not only that, but by the 
hurry which Marvel affected to be necessary for the delivery 
of his message, Nicholas lost all opportunity of excusing his 
absence to old Pratt, and consequently the latter, not know- 
ing what had passed at the Court, expected the bridegroom 
elect the very night on which his counterfeit presented himself. 

But little Dorothy's heart was heavy enough that May-day 
night, for she had not recognised Marvel under his clever 
disguise, and had seen only the features and the garb of 
Nicholas Webb. Perhaps if she had scanned her father's 
guest more closely, she might have detected his real per- 
sonality, but the great dislike and loathing she felt for the 
man whom she believed him to be, forbade her eyes to rest 
upon his face for a single moment. 



NOBLE LOVE. 259 

So she passed all that night in broken sleep and hideous 
dreams, waking with every watch to weep over her helpless- 
ness and grief, and to pray that even yet Marvel might be 
able to save her. 

And when at last the morning broke, and the sun began 
his day's journey along the heavens, poor Dorothy rose from 
her bed, pale and cold and unrefreshed, and crawled out to 
her work with so slow a step and so sad a face, that all the 
neighbours wondered and speculated about her. 

" What think you," said one old crone, leaning out of her 
open window, to her gossip next door, who stood broom in 
hand upon the doorstep as Dorothy passed : " what think 
you of our Dorothy ? She's got something on her mind I take 
it, for 'tis now the third day she hath been moped and sickly 
like this. Didst mark how she scarce looked up at me as 
she went by ? — and she mostly stays awhile to talk." 

"Ay, indeed," returned the other, "'tis certain there's 
somewhat amiss with the wench. Why she used to be the 
life o' the village!" 

"And yesterday was May-day," chimed in a young girl, 
who was on her way with two pails to her milking, and who 
had paused to join in the dialogue : " and all of us were 
merrymaking, but Dorothy sat at home the whole day long 
over her spindle ! And one of the young men who passed by 
Master Pratt's cottage, swears he saw her weeping while she 
sat at the window and span." 

"Who's this you're talking of, gossips ?" interposed a fourth 
voice, just over the shoulder of the milkmaid. The speaker 
was a carpenter bound for his work-shop, with his bag of tools 
slung over his shoulder, and little, keen, black, inquisitive 
eyes that peered about him like rolling beads. 

" Mercy on me, cousin John !" cried the girl with the milk- 
pails, " how you frightened me ! Why we're talking of Do- 
rothy Pratt, of course ; hav'n't you seen how altered she is 
these three days past ? So white and sad and silent ?" 

"Well now, I tell ye what it is," quoth the carpenter 
slowly, concentrating the gaze of his beady eyes with im- 
pressive awfulness on the face of the old woman at the win- 
dow: "it's my belief. Mistress Margery, that our Dorothy 
is bewitched. That's it, depend on't." 

"Bewitched !" screamed the three females in shrill chorus, 
" Lord preserve us ! But you're in the right, neighbour ! 
Alice Forbes is at the bottom of this new piece of mis- 
chief!" 

Here a fifth villager, by trade a blacksmith, and a great 
authority in the place, besides being a popular preacher at 
the tavern, joined the group and the conversation, and then 
another and another, till there was quite a large assemblage 

S 2 



26o NOBLE LOVE. 

about Mistress Margery's window, and the hum and buzz of 
the mingled voices could be heard all down the street. Of 
course everybody endorsed the sage opinion of the carpenter, 
for in those days people loved to believe in things that they 
could neither explain nor understand, and were delighted to 
have some pretext for discussing so mysterious and appalling 
a theme as witchcraft. 

So the blacksmith made a long oration on the subject, 
which edified and instructed all his hearers exceedingly, and 
which ended by impressing upon them the exigency and 
importance of the Mosaical command, " Thou shalt not suffer 
a witch to live." Nothing, therefore, could be clearer, as the 
preacher made manifest, than the two facts that old Alice 
Forbes had laid Dorothy under enchantment, and that it 
behoved the Rowanites, as good Christians, to rise like one 
man and bum the cottage on the gorse-common to the 
ground, with all its contents. 

" It is time she should die, indeed," cried they ; ** for how 
can she have lived all these ten months, unless Satan has 
supported her ?" 

And again : " Let us be cowards no longer ; Satan dare 
not face a hundred pious men! We will go this evening 
and take vengeance on him and on this devil's hag for 
bewitching our Dorothy !" 

So they fermented and worked themselves round into 
a mighty state of righteous indignation at the suppositi- 
tious crime, and only separated at last to go and stir up 
others also in the same cause, and to spread from house to 
house the rare tidings that Dorothy Pratt was bewitched, 
and that Gorse Moor Cottage was to be set on fire before 
nightfall. 

And in some such way as this, conclusions are often drawn, 
and "justice" is often done among men. 

Seven o'clock came, and old Humphrey went out as usual 
to the tavern, to hear Master Nipper pray, and another emi- 
nent saint preach, and to drink two pots of ale after the 
prayers and the preaching, with the divines and the elect 
congregation generally. 

And Dorothy, — poor little sad-hearted Dorothy, — slipped 
on her hood and cloak, took her basket of provisions, and 
sallied out on her errand to Dame Alice. 

But, before she had gone two yards on her way, a rough 
voice suddenly saluted her, and a rough hand from behind 
grasped her on either shoulder. 

" How now, pretty mistress ? Whither goest thou, and what 
hast thou there beneath thy mantle?" 

It was Nicholas Webb,— the real Nicholas this time, and 
not the false coin ! 



NOBI.E LOVE. 




NOBLE LOVE. 26 1 

But Dorothy stood still, speechless and confused. It was 
the first time she had ever been questioned on the purport of 
her evening expeditions, save by Marvel, and she knew not 
how to reply. What could Nicholas be doing there at such 
a time, — he who always went to hear Master Nipper dis- 
course i She asked him. 

" I came after thy father, pretty one," he answered. 
" I was in hopes to have been in time to accompany him 
to the assembly, but I find he is already gone and the 
room empty. And thou, my angel, my treasure, — whither 
art thou bound ?" 

Dorothy's face glowed and reddened with vexation and 
dismay. What should she say to him, and why did he 
persecute her so, and where, — O where was Marvel, to help 
her out of her misfortunes as he had promised to do ? 

So she held her peace, till Nicholas grew angry and tore 
aside the cloak from her grasp in a passion. And behold 
the basket and its cover of white cloth, and beneath it two 
loaves of Dorothy's baking, and Marvel's soup, and the butter 
and the wine. 

"Why, what's all this.?" he shouted. "Dost thou gad 
about hawking victuals, then, Dorothy ; and doth thy father 
know of thine errand to-night .?" 

But Dorothy drew the cloth and the mantle again over her 
basket, and would have passed him by without. an answer; 
only he caught her arm rudely and held her so that she 
could not stir. 

" Let me go> Master Webb," said she, with an air and voice 
of quiet dignity which seemed her own natural prerogative, 
and not the mere assumed trick of an injured woman. "You 
have no right to question me in this manner. Unhand me, 
if you please, sir." 

But the Puritan lover did not understand courtesy. He 
laughed a short sharp laugh like the broken ring of false 
metal, and griped Dorothy's arm the tighter. 

" No right, forsooth, my angel ? Sayest thou so ? Prithee 
tell me, then, who hath a right to question thee if not I, 
—I, thy husband.?" 

" Not my husband yet," answered Dorothy, determinedly ; 
" and God forbid you ever be ! If you make me wife of yours, 
Master Webb, it must be by force, for my voice shall never 
promise love and loyalty to the like of you ! I have told you 
this twenty times, and I told it to father in your hearing 
last night, and now I tell it you again, that if perchance 
there be some grain of wisdom or of Christian kindness 
left in your heart, you may even now see well to withdraw 
from such hopeless courtship as yours!" 

She was roused at last, this little gentle Dorothy, and 



262 NOBLE LOVE. 

something akin to indignation burned in her throat and 
glowed in her brown eyes as Nicholas dropped his hand from 
her shoulder, and she turned about and faced him. 

"Heyday!" cried he, "my certie, these are high words, 
mistress! Perhaps thou mayest learn another tune before 
to-morrow! Thy father, worthy Master Pratt, will have 
somewhat to say to thee to-night on this score, and I shall 
have my way with thee yet, — vixen and shrew though thou 
art! But for the nonce, thou shalt not stir a step without 
me, for I warrant thou hast some mischief in thine head now. 
Whither goest thou, Dorothy, with that basket ?" 

And again he caught her by the wrist, and glared in her 
face with a hideous leer that made her heart leap in her 
bosom for terror and loathing. 

" Whither I go," she said, boldly, " is not for you to know, 
nor shall I tell you, though you stand here and hold .my 
wrist all night. So you may get on your own way at once 
and leave me alone, or if not I will wait in this place till you 
grow tired of keeping me and be pleased to depart But 
my errand this evening is not yours, and I do not desire your 
company." 

There came over the face of Nicholas Webb a black, 
horrible scowl, and his eyes grew bright like a cat's, with 
malignant passion. 

"If thou wilt not go with me," he hissed, in a lower, 
huskier voice, — Nicholas never spoke up when he was angry, 
— " thou shalt not go at all, mistress ! I have that to do to- 
night with thy father which perhaps may render thee more 
tractable in future. For the present, it is enough that thou 
go home with me." And he chinked the twenty pounds 
in his pouch, and grinned the grin of a triumphant fiend, 
as he dragged Dorothy back into the weaver's cottage. 

There she sat down in the window-seat, and looked at him 
out of the clear depths of her indignant eyes, as she had never 
looked at him before ; but she spoke no word, nor moved her 
stedfast lips. And Nicholas, who could not abide much 
watching, paced up and down the room uneasily, till the 
sense of her quiet gaze grew intolerable to him. 

"Dorothy," said he, wheeling about suddenly, and con- 
fronting her, " if 'ee dost think to bully my purpose out o' 
me by thy staring, I tell thee thou'rt out of thy reckoning, 
ril not stay here to be insulted by any woman alive, much 
less by thee, mistress mine! If I can't bring thee to thy 
right mind alone, be sure Master Pratt and I will do it 
together, for Til away to the tavern this moment, and fetch 
him hither. And as for that basket, — I shall take it with 
me, that I may shew him and the rest of the worthy neigh- 
bours there, how ill Mistress Dorothy spends her time when 



^ 



NOBLE LOVE. 263 

they are engaged in prayer and pious discourse. Perchance 
some one of them may be better able than I to guess what 
pretty business is this o' thine at night, and to what end so 
much deceit and iniquity are directed !" 

So he pounced upon her basket as a hawk swoops on his 
prey, and bore it off, soup, wine, loaves and all, bolting the 
door behind him to make his captive safe, and muttering 
under his breath like a distant storm of thunder. 

Dorothy heard his footsteps on the threshold of the house 
and then outside the window, but she neither lifted her head 
to see him pass, nor moved the open outstretched hand from 
which he had taken the basket So she sat awhile absorbed 
in her new bitterness, and dimly wondering what misfortune 
would happen next, and how that miserable day would end 
for her. Then the thought of Marvel came into her mind, 
and she leant her head against the window-frame, and the 
tears fell so fast and thickly down her cheeks, that all her 
indignation and all her dignity were quite washed away in 
a minute, and nothing was left in her heart and in her eyes 
but aching sorrow, and weariness, and forlorn hope. For 
Nicholas had latched the chamber door without, so that 
she could not escape, but must sit where she was like a 
little caged bird, until he and her father should come to 
rail at her again, and to expound that fresh wretchedness 
at which they had both already hinted, and which she knew 
was in store for her that very night. 

By-and-by it grew dusk, and Dorothy could see the lights 
twinkling here and there in the windows of the houses all 
along the village street. Overhead the sky was dark and 
stormy, and there was no moon to be seen, only now and 
then a star looked out from behind the sweeping masses of 
cloud, and smiled encouragement at her with its bright 
clear eye. 

And Dorothy took heart again as she watched the stars, 
and she thought that if the stedfast lustre of their faces could 
not be dimmed nor changed by the shadows about them, 
why should she be dismayed because for a little while her 
life was clouded and dark ? So she threw open the lattice 
and leaned her chin on her two palms, and looked hopefully 
upwards to the God beyond the stars, till there came into 
her mind the words of an old hymn which was sung first 
long ago by one in great tribulation, and which has been 
the consolation of many a burdened soul since then. 

And she said the words aloud to herself, lingering over 
them reverently and trustfully, for she knew they were the 
words of a singer who had learnt his songs of God Himself. 

" Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou 
disquieted within me ! Hope thou in God, for I will yet give 



264 NOBLE LOVE. 

Him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my 
God !" 

Whose h'ght, brisk footstep was this, coming down the 
sounding street towards her, with such even, sturdy tread ? 

Whose shadow was this on the window-sill outside ? Who 
was this that called to her suddenly as he stopped in front 
of the open casement, — " Dorothy, Dorothy ! What all alone 
and crying?" 

Then she leapt up in mingled joy and grief and welcomed 
him, and said, " Come round quickly, my lord, and open the 
door, for Master Nicholas has been here and is gone again, 
and has put up the latch without, and I cannot unfasten it i" 

So the next minute the bolt flew back and Dorothy's prison- 
door opened, and in strode Marvel Maxwell, no longer dis- 
guised, but in full royalist costume, plumed and curled, and 
sword g^rt, indignant and fierce as a wild bull at the sight 
of scarlet. 

"Where is Master Pratt?" he bellowed, "I'm come here 
to pay him the reckoning I promised! Isn't he home 
from his tavern yet ? — the coward, the miser, the whining, 
drivelling, paltry, hypocritical old knave!" 

Poor Dorothy rose from her place astonished, and stared 
at him with wide alarmed eyes and round mouth, for she 
had never heard Marvel declaim in this fashion before, and 
she was terribly scared at such an outburst. And Marvel 
caught sight of her face, and stopped short in his passion to 
laugh. 

" What, did I frighten you, Dorothy ? Well, perhaps I was 
a little hasty, but if you only knew ; — Never mind," and he 
checked himself, " you must know some day, so it doesn't 
matter now. But don't be dismayed, little woman, /'ve not 
been to hear Master Nipper, so you may be sure ale has 
nothing to do with my vehemence ! I suppose your — your 
father has not come home yet ?" 

Then Dorothy told him all that had befallen that evening, 
and the evening before, and how she had refused to kiss 
Master Webb when her father had bidden her, and how 
he had been very angry with her for her disobedience, and 
had told her that resistance was of no use, for he was re- 
solved she should marry that hateful man. But Dorothy 
said nothing about the blow Master Pratt had given her, 
though her bosom was black and sore with the bruise. 

Then she went on and told Marvel how Nicholas had met 
her that night, and what she had said to him, and how he 
had gone off in a rage to fetch her father, and had taken 
her basket with him ; and she cried, " Oh what will poor 
Dame Alice do this evening without me, and without any- 
thing to eat ? For there was not enpugh left last night at 



NOBLE LOVE. 26$ 

her supper to last out all to-day ! And I promised I would 
come ! " 

Marvel stood a moment before her, grinding his teeth in 
indignant silence, and gazing into the road with angry eyes, 
as though he were looking out for those two knaves. Then 
he turned again to Dorothy, and said very gently and slowly, 
— " Dorothy, Alice Forbes shall not go fasting to-night be- 
cause Nicholas has carried away your basket and locked you 
up. I will go back to Rowan Court and get you some food 
to take her, but I dare not leave you here alone meantime, 
lest he and Master Pratt should come upon you while I am 
gone. Neither can I take you with me along the streets, for 
the townsfolk would see us walking together, and take note 
of it perchance, to speak ill of you and of me, Dorothy ; for 
it is late now, and I have never yet been through the village 
with you even by day. Have you courage enough to brave 
the spectres in Yew -lane by yourself this dark night, and 
meet me at the widow's cottage } I will be sure to be there 
at least as soon as you, for I can run all the way> and I run 
fast too." 

So they settled it between them, and Marvel went up the 
street again towards the Court-house, to fetch a supper for 
old mother Forbes ; and Dorothy went another way to the 
entrance of the Ghost- walk. 

Now Marvel was a merry boy for all his indignant spirit, 
and when he came to the park gates and looked in at the 
lodge -keeper's door, behold Nicholas Webb's supper lay 
ready spread for him on the table, — ale and rye cake, and 
a goodly trencher full of dainties. 

And a thought came into Marvel's head, and he said to 
himself; "Faith, why should I go any further for a meal, 
when so rare a one stands ready before my very nose ? I 
shall save time by taking this, and do a piece of benevolence 
on Master Webb's account as well. St. George ! but the 
rogue shall be charitable for once, even against his will!" 
So Marvel stepped into the lodge parlour laughing ; and 
when he had found Master Webb's market-basket he stowed 
away inside it the ale-can and the comestibles, and left the 
table as bare and barren as its owner's conceptions of Chris- 
tianity. Then he slung his treasures over his arm, and ran 
off at the top of his speed in the direction of Gorse Common. 



266 NOBLE LOVE. 

CHAPTER IX. 

SHEWING HOW THE VILLAGERS "ROSE 
LIKE ONE MAN." 

Master Humphrey Pratt and Master Nicholas Webb 
sat together in a small parlour at the Rowan Inn, deeply 
engaged in some apparently controversial argument 

Between them was a square deal table, and thereon two 
pewter tankards, half-emptied. Dorothy's basket lay at old 
Pratt's feet, and Dorothy was the theme which had started 
the present discussion, but in the turn it had taken, the 
basket itself and its contents were quite forgotten. 

And an animated discussion it was, to judge from the 
loud tones, round eyes, and lifted brows of the old weaver 
and his intending nephew. The truth was that Nicholas 
Webb had just proved his alibi with regard to the events 
of the previous evening, to which, very naturally, old Pratt 
had referred almost immediately they met So both men 
were in a very pretty state of confusion and perplexity. 
Had Marvel been present to overhear the colloquy, he would 
doubtless have enjoyed it exceedingly, for the superstitious 
and gloomy proclivities of these two worthies led them, as 
perhaps the young baron anticipated, to ascribe the weaver's 
experiences of May-day night to diabolic agency. 

" I tell thee, Nicholas," cried the old man, bringing down 
his fist with an impressive thud on the hard deal table before 
him, — " the man was as like thee as thine image in a mirror ! 
He wore thy dress, he spoke in thy voice, he used thy ges- 
tures, — how could I tell he was not thyself.^ As the Lord 
liveth, Nicholas, hadst thou been there in the flesh thou 
wouldst scarce have believed in thine own substance ! Did 
Dorothy say nothing to thee about it V 

" I mind me now,'* answered Nicholas, greatly puzzled, 
" that she did indeed use certain words this evening which 
implied my having been present during some converse she 
had with thee last night, but it escaped my thoughts to 
inquire what she meant This is an awful business, neigh- 
bour, — an appalling, a terrible, an unearthly business !" And 
he shook his cropped head slowly from side to side with 
each adjective, and gazed fixedly at the horrified grey-beard 
opposite. Humphrey shook his head also, and his hand 
trembled as he lifted the tankard beside him, and drained 
it dry in silence. Nicholas followed his example, and then 
for a minute both men sat and stared at one another without 
speaking, each occupied in his own reflections. Any other 
matter than precisely the one in question, they would, by 



NOBLE LOVE. 267 

mutual consent, have referred to the wiser judgment of 
Master Nipper, but they both felt the delicate position they 
held respectively in the present affair, with regard to the 
pecuniary nature of the agreement between them, and were 
loth, of course, to publish their knavery even to their own 
shepherd. So they sat still, each in his chair, staring and 
meditating, but each unable to arrive at any rational solution 
of the mystery which bewildered them. Old Pratt was the 
first to announce the unsuccessful result of his cogitations. 

" It's beyond me altogether, Nicholas," said he ; " The best 
we can do is to marry the girl to thee off-hand, and take 
no note of last night's doings at all. Thou'st brought the 
money thou say est f** 

** Ye-es," stammered the lover, turning paler than before, — 
" Tve brought the money, sure enow ; but ye know, friend, 
'tis an awkward thing to take a wife who's pledged to — to — 
Satan, ye know ! " 

He leaned across the table when he came to the last words, 
and delivered them straight into his companion's ear in a 
hissing, ghastly whisper. Old Pratt recoiled as from a sudden 
blow, and fixed upon the lodge-keeper's face a pair of the 
most dismayed and frightened eyes that ever looked out 
of mortal head. 

" By the word of truth, Nicholas Webb, thou hast surely 
hit the mark ! Wretched man that I am, I have promised 
my Dorothy, — your Dorothy, Nicholas, — promised her, body 
and soul, to the Evil One himself! Oh, oh, oh! this is 
a machination of the gorse witch, I tell 'ee ! What is to be 
done, — what is to be done !" 

But Nicholas held up his hand suddenly, and turned in his 
chair towards the closed door behind him. 

" Hush," whispered he, "listen, neighbour, — what's thatV^ 

There arose as he spoke a confused din as of many voices, 
a growing tumult, coming down the road nearer and nearer. 

Humphrey sprang from his seat in a frenzy of terror, and 
smote his hands together above his grey head. 

"I know, I know!" cried he. "Oh, Nicholas, fool that 
I am ! I forgot it until now ! He said he would come 
to-night to pay me his debt, and to claim his pledge of me ! 
I — I pressed him to come, Nicholas ; I made him promise 
he would not fail ! How could I tell who it was I was 
inviting ? That's him, — that's them, coming now, Nicholas 1 
It's fiends, I tell 'ee, FIENDS ! !" 

The words rang through the chamber with a dismal shriek, 
that was echoed back from the long passage outside, mingled 
with the noise of cries and hooting and the quick tramp of 
approaching footsteps. Old Pratt flung himself forward into 
the outstretched arms of his appalled companion, who had 



268 NOBLE LOVE. 

risen from his seat, and held on to him like a shipwrecked 
man clinging to a timber-raft. But that moment the door 
flew open, and there rushed tumultuously into the little 
parlour, not a company of fiends, but of human-visaged 
Rowanites, armed with sticks, bludgeons, and hedge-stakes, 
and all yelling and whooping together in noisy chorus. 

" Master Pratt ! Master Pratt ! we want you, — come with 
us ! They told us you were here, so we came on to fetch 
you ! Come quickly, — here's Dorothy kidnapped, and weVe 
going to burn the old witch and her house to-night!" 

Humphrey dropped his hands from Nicholas, and stood 
aghast. 

"Why, neighbour," gasped he, catching the foremost of 
the rabble by his leathern jerkin, " what's all this ? Dorothy 
kidnapped, did they say ?'* 

" Aye, aye, neighbour ! kidnapped in good sooth," returned 
the others, gazing back at him, *' for it's not a quarter of an 
hour since Mistress Holmes saw her go down Ghost-lane 
alone, to all appearance, but running as though Satan him- 
self was behind her, the which he may ha' been well enough, 
for what pair of mortal eyes can discern a spirit.^ And, 
moreover, Mistress Holmes affirmed, that as she ran she 
looked behind her ever and anon, like one who is pursued, 
and flies for dread of an enemy." 

"It's true, it's all true," roared the weaver, wringing his 
hands in an agony of horror. " Didn't I tell 'ee so, Nicholas ? 
It's the Evil One that's been to fetch her while I'm away, 
and he's driven her off to Gorse Cottage, sure enow ! Or, 
maybe, she's been drawn there by the witch's spells ! It 
all comes o' that cursed business last night ! We shan't none 
of us set eyes on Dorothy again, Nicholas ! Satan has re- 
deemed his pledge, and she's gone for ever, body and soul !" 

So Humphrey Pratt, who had beaten and abused and mal- 
treated his little niece all her life, lamented now over her 
supposed abduction from him and from salvation ! But the 
case is not an uncommon one. 

Nicholas, with greater presence of mind than the miser, 
recalled him to the exercise of the few senses he possessed, 
fearful, perhaps, lest the old man in the paroxysm of his 
horror should betray more than would be expedient for the 
gossips to hear. 

" Come, come, neighbour Pratt," cried he, "'tis no sort 
o' use to stand still and wring your hands in this fashion ! 
Let's be off with these good people at once, and see if some- 
thing can't be done in the matter. Maybe Satan '11 take 
a compromise, or better still, take fright, and leave Dorothy 
alone ! There's enough of us, at all events, to fight a crew 
of evil spirits ; and 'tis clear enough too, from what neighbour 



NOBLE LOVE. 269 

Holmes saw, that Dorothy's been driven down Ghost-lane 
to the Witches' Moor ; so we may be in time yet before 
Satan carries her off! We're not going to be outdone by 
a parcel of witches and fiends, are we neighbours ?" 

And he drew himself up bravely, and glared defiance of all 
Pandemonium, in the full glow of that courage which the 
consciousness of supporting numbers inspires in the breasts 
of certain human creatures. For only a few minutes since, 
before the arrival of the crowd, this same heroic Nicholas had 
been as arrant a coward as his worthy colleague, the weaver. 
But now his appeal was received with loud plaudits, and the 
whole assembly, headed by Master Grymes, the prophetical 
blacksmith and prayer-maker-in- ordinary to the village, 
rushed pell-mell out of the tavern and up the road toward 
Yew Walk. 

Never before had that solitary lane been filled with such 
tumult and confusion. Certainly the ghosts and witches who 
were commonly reported to infest it at nights, and to hold 
all manner of mad orgies and revels up and down it, would 
have been mere lambs at play to this howling rabble of the 
human species ! But not a sign of witch or ghost was to be 
found that night, though many a Rowanite seer swore to the 
glint of white garments and gleaming eyes by the wayside, 
as the rustic army pressed on toward the common. Torches, 
shovels, and birch-brooms swayed to and fro above the heads 
of the mob, and yells and cries of excited rage rent the night 
air and awoke the birds on the rustling yew-branches over 
head. There was no moon, and the clouds which Dorothy 
had remarked from her lattice an hour ago, now filled the 
whole sky and threatened storm and hurricane from every 
quarter. And presently the thunder broke with a deep, 
broad, ominous growl in the south, and rolled up the heaven 
and down again, and died away on a blast of wind. 

They all heard it above the sharp clatter of their own 
voices, for thunder at night is too distinct and unmistakeable 
to be confused with any other sound. And one cried, ** Let 
us press forward, neighbours ! there is a storm in the air!" 

And another, " Back, back ! the witches are abroad !" 

But their prophet, the man of iron, sturdy Master Grymes, 
shouted out, " Forward ! before the Evil One carries off his 
prey ! We may be in time yet, for that is the noise of his 
chariot-wheels approaching, the chariot of the Prince of the 
Power of the Air!" 

Then they dashed on, and the rising blast swept along 
with them, and puffed fiercely away at the flames of the 
torches, as though it would fain have blown them out, and 
served old widow Forbes a good turn. But it could not, so 
it rose up into the trees, and moaned and sobbed in indig- 



270 NOBLE LOVE. 

nation and disappointment among the branches^ and then 
higher still, out and up and back into the dark open sky. 

And the villagers turned the corner of the lane and poured 
themselves tumultuously upon the bleak gorse moor, and 
behold, before them, the little hovel they had come to de- 
stroy, and the mysterious light gleaming forth from its one 
unshuttered window ! 



CHAPTER X. 

BESIEGERS AND BESIEGED. 

Marvel and Dorothy were both within, for Marvel had 
heard the hubbub of the crowd coming up the lane some 
minutes before, and had run in from his customary recon- 
noitring post to warn the little damsel. But when the noise 
drew nearer, and they peeped out together from the window 
and descried the flare of the lights and the numbers of the 
mob. Marvel bade Dorothy bar up the door and keep within ; 
*'for," said he, "they are too many and too noisy to hear 
reason yet, — we must stand at bay for a while. I might 
save you by taking you out to meet them, but I could not 
save poor dame Forbes, and we must not think of leaving 
her alone to face these savages, — it would be certain murder. 
They would kill her outright or frighten her to death in no 
time, for there can be little doubt on what sort of errand 
they are come!" 

And he pointed with one hand to the torches waving to 
and fro in the darkness, and with the other drew Dorothy 
closer towards him. 

" Dear Dorothy," he whispered, " be brave and stand firm 
by me ; we must not desert this poor old woman, whom God 
has given into our charge to-night." 

Then the crimson blood rose quickly to the little Puritan's 
forehead, and she bent her face down low to hide it ; for this 
was the first time Marvel had called her "Dear Dorothy," 
and the words were somehow wondrously sweet and strange 
to her ears. 

But the noise outside grew nearer and louder as he spoke, 
and two distinct shouts arose above the general din, clearer 
and fiercer than all the rest : " Burn the house ! bum it down 
to the ground !" "To the horse-pond with the witch !" 

And Dorothy turned from Marvel to poor Alice, who 
was almost bed -ridden now, and very deaf and feeble and 
helpless. 

"Dorothy, Dorothy," wailed the palsied old voice from 



NOBLE LOVE. 




"Ilgnitli7, wliat 1> &l; Uut aoiu, m7 iuUntt"— in/act p,ttl.) 



NOBLE LOVE. 27 I 

the little couch in the corner, "what is all that noise, my 
darling?" 

" Nothing, mother," said Dorothy, " nothing to be fright- 
ened at Lie back again and drink this milk I have warmed 
for you. And see, here is some nice new bread and a little 
stew, which has been just cooked at our own fire, — only taste 
how soft and good it is !" 

So she sat down by the old woman, and coaxed and 
soothed and persuaded her, while the thunder muttered and 
rolled without, and the shouts grew fiercer, and the smell 
and heat of the burning torches filled the tiny cottage from 
end to end. Some one flung a stone through the window. 
It fell at Dorothy's feet harmlessly enough, but the old 
dame saw it, and she pushed away the cup which the little 
nurse held to her lips, and clung round her neck in terror. 

"Dorothy, darling," she cried, "Oh what is it all about.? 
They are come to kill me, I know ; — don't let them kill me, 
Dorothy!" 

"There's no need to be frightened, mother," answered 
Marvel, from his place at the doorway, " nobody shall hurt 
you. Eat your supper, and be sure things will be all right 
presently. You needn't be afraid, indeed." 

"God bless you for a true, good gentleman !" cried Alice. 
" You and Dorothy are my ministering angels, and without 
you I should have surely died long ago ! O Lord, I pray 
Thee, let Thy blessing be upon these two for ever!" 

There stole up the doorway without a red quivering blaze, 
and the dry old boards crackled and creaked like living 
things in pain. Then there came a great blow, as from 
a hammer, and another, and a crash ; and the door rocked 
and hung swaying to and fro. Then a heavy iron crowbar 
struck it once more, and it fell inwards in a cloud of smoke 
and dust and flame. 

With a loud yell of triumph the villagers rushed for- 
ward, armed tooth - and - nail for the battle with their dia- 
bolical enemies ; but they stopped short as the foremost 
set foot on the fallen door, and stood gaping in each 
other's faces. 

For within the little chamber, side by side, stood Marvel 
and Dorothy, close to the bed of the sick old woman, who 
was now sitting up against her pillows, and grasping the 
little maid's outstretched hands in piteous alarm and be- 
wilderment. 

Here indeed were Dorothy and the witch, but where 
was Satan ? 

So there was a murmur among the crowd in the doorway, 
and some whispered, "'Tis the baron, we must go back;" 



272 NOBLE LOVE. 

and others, "We shall have to pay for this night's work;*' 
but the greater part stood still with mazed faces, and stared 
blankly upon the rest. 

, But Marvel did not let them wait long in that uneasy 
plight, for he was indignant enough at heart, despite the 
comical looks of astonishment they cast one on another, 
and their foolish, crest-fallen faces. 

"Well, neighbours," said he, stepping forward to meet 
them, "what brings you hither in this unneighbourly fashion } 
Is it your Christian love and your tenderness to the aged 
and the widowed ?'* 

And at that they looked more foolish still, and gaped the 
wider ; but the boldest man among them took Nicholas Webb 
and Humphrey Pratt by the arm, one on either side, and 
led them forward, loth enough. 

'* Here, your Lordship," quoth he, " is the father of that 
young woman beside you, whom we came to seek, — honest 
Master Pratt, the weaver. And here is Master Webb, your 
Lordship's lodge -keeper, to whom she is betrothed, an't 
please you ; so now they shall speak for themselves, for," 
concluded he, under his breath, as he slunk back into the 
crowd, " ril be hanged if Til say any more." 

"Well, Master Pratt," said Marvel, fixing his clear blue 
eyes on the face of the unhappy grey-beard, "will you be 
good enough to tell me why you came here to-night ?" 

"They brought me, your worship," he stammered, "because 
they meant to burn down the witch's house ; and Dorothy — 
she being bewitched, my lord — was drawn hither by spells ; 
so they came, didn't you, neighbours ? to fetch me, my lord ; 
as they'll tell you themselves, if your worship's grace will 
inquire." 

And he began to hedge himself back again into the mob, 
as the first speaker had done, but Marvel stayed him in his 
place with a wave of the hand. 

"Stop, if you please. Master Pratt," said he. "Do you 
mean to tell me that you and your fellows really came here 
to burn the house over this poor old woman, sick and palsied 
and helpless as she is ? Are you men, you creatures before 
me with human faces, or are you not rather fiends and 
goblins who have no hearts in your bosoms, nor brains in 
your skulls ? Faith ! it is the first time I ever had reason 
to believe this moor a haunted place, for I have been here 
many an evening before and found it peaceful and lonely 
enough. But to-night I think I have at last encountered 
the evil things people tell about, — the malignant devil's 
crew of Gorse Common ! For surely so foul a crime as that 
you came hither to do can never be the intent of Christian 



NOBLE LOVE. 273 

souls and manly hands. Answer me, Nicholas Webb, and 
you there Master Grymes the blacksmith, hath your friend 
the weaver spoken truly ?" 

But there was silence, for they were all afraid and some 
ashamed ; so Marvel asked again : — " Master Grymes, how 
say you ? Has the weaver spoken truly ?" 

Grymes saw he must say something now, so he resolved 
to make the best of it, lest his prophetical character should 
be damaged with the villagers, albeit his iron soul quaked 
exceedingly. 

" It's true my lord, as he says, but indeed everybody 
knows Alice Forbes for a witch, and a dangerous one too, 
your lordship's grace. Why how has she lived these ten 
months without meat and drink unless she be a witch .^ 
There is not a man among us who has had any dealings with 
her, but Satan hath nourished his own, and now the Lord 
hath delivered her into the hands of His Israel !" 

And thereon several among the crowd took heart again at 
their leader's boldness, and shook their heads, and repeated 
the usual indisputable argument, "Aye aye! how has she 
lived these ten months ? " 

Marvel turned to Dorothy and drew her right hand into 
his, but Alice still clung to the other and held it tightly 
and trustfully to her breast, as though her little nurse were 
indeed her protecting angel. 

" I will tell you how she has lived, neighbours," said 
Marvel. " Nearly a year ago, when all of you turned your 
back upon that poor old woman, and abused and ill-treated 
and drove her from your streets, there was yet one little 
Christian among you who loved her Lord with all her heart 
and who kept His commandments. And for love of Him 
and of His poor, she had compassion on the widow for whom 
you had none, and she gave her earnings week by week 
to buy food and clothing for her, and took patiently and 
lovingly much reviling and slandering because she would 
not tell others of her good deed and of her alms. And in fair 
weather and in foul she came hither up Yew-lane to minister 
to the woman you despised, never wearying nor fainting in 
her charity. This she has done for ten months, and for the 
last three I have helped her, and this evening I let her out 
of the room into which Nicholas Webb had locked her, 
and she came here on the same good errand as before of her 
own will, and by force of no spell, unless it be the spell 
of Christian love. So now you know how Alice Forbes has 
lived, but I have something else to tell you to-night besides 
that Humphrey Pratt, — it was I who supped at your house 
last night, in the guise of your worthy friend there, and 
it was to me and not to him that you promised to sell 

T 



274 NOBLE LOVE. 

Dorothy for twenty pounds. It was in my presence that 
you struck her on the bosom, because she told you she 
could not be the wife of Nicholas Webb. And it was to me 
also that you confessed your real relationship to her, and the 
knavish manner in which you had abused your dead brother's 
trust. You are worthy no longer of that trust, for she is 
a treasure of pure gold, and you are base metal to the back- 
bone, and have done your worst to make her like you. But 
thank God she has better blood and truer in her veins than 
runs in yours, and so you failed in your intent, and would 
have rid yourself of her to a man she hates for a bag-full 
of clinking coin. Get you back again to the place whence 
you came eighteen years ago, for the house in which you 
live here is not yours, but his to whom you have broken 
your pledge, and whose child you have shamefully betrayed. 

" And you, Nicholas Webb, who would have bought your 
wife for money because you could not get her by fair means, 
you may put your gold by again in your closet, for if Dorothy 
will not take you freely and for love, I swear by my hali- 
dome she shall let you be." Then Marvel looked at Dorothy, 
and there came a strange earnest light into his eyes, and 
his voice faltered as he spoke again ; "Dorothy, you told 
me that the only thing which kept you back from the 
Church, was your duty of obedience to your father, who had 
forbidden you any worship save his own. This Humphrey 
Pratt is not your father, and himself disowns all claims 
between you and him. Your father was his brother Philip, 
a good Catholic and loyal servant of the King's, and he left 
behind him an earnest charge that you also should follow 
in the way he went and in the way of your mother Marie. 
But your uncle here, broke his trust and dishonoured his 
faith, and brought you up instead in his own outlandish 
fashion, and this very night he would have sold you to be 
the wife of another as bad and disloyal as he. Tell me, 
Dorothy, will you marry this man Nicholas Webb, whom 
your uncle designs for your husband, and sing psalms with 
him in his conventicle ? Or will you be my wife, Dorothy, 
and go to church as your father and your mother did 
before you ?** 

Mv WIFE ! Ah, if there had been clamour and hubbub 
before among the villagers at the doorway, there was silence 
enough now, when those words were spoken, silence so deep 
and still and wonder struck, that each man might almost 
have heard his neighbour's heart beat in the stillness. But 
little Dorothy heard the words like one in a dream, a happy, 
mazy, misty, golden dream. He had not asked her to be 
" Lady Maxwell," nor baroness of Rowan Court, — he had 
only said, — " Dorothy, be mjy wife," 



KOBLE LOVE. 2^5 

And she looked up and saw the sea of astounded faces 
before her, and the ghastly stare of Humphrey Pratt, and the 
livid cat-like eyes of Nicholas. Then she turned from them 
all to Marvel, and laid her brown head upon his neck and 
said, "'Where thou goest I will go, thy people shall be 
my people, and thy God my God.* " 

The lightning shone full on her sweet face as she spoke, 
and on the swaying crow-bars and axes and torches of the 
crowd, and the thunder burst and died away in awful re- 
verberation. But Marvel caught her to his breast as the 
solemn peal rolled overhead, and kissed her before them all. 



CHAPTER XI. 

IN WHICH EVERYTHING ENDS HAPPILY. 

So now my story has come to its ending, and I am very 
glad it has such a pleasant one, for stories that end sadly 
are very uncomfortable things indeed. And all I have to 
say yet about Marvel and Dorothy will be sweet and ac- 
ceptable to you, I hope, reader mine, whoever you may be^ 
if you have had patience to hear me throughout until now. 

For the prejudice and the bigotry that Marvel and the 
priest had found too strong for them, fell before Dorothy's 
gentle love and patience, as all bad things must fall before 
the good, when the right time comes. And the villagers 
were ashamed of themselves when they found out how simple, 
and mistaken, and unjust they had been, and what bad 
deeds were done among them, and what a false prophet their 
blacksmith was. And just because the conviction of their 
folly struck them all alike, and altogether, it struck them 
deeply, for prejudice must be dealt with wholesale, if it is 
to be really overcome. So they gave up their tavern meet- 
ings, and their Bible-talk ; and the tinkers, and cobblers, 
and blacksmiths preached no more unless they preached 
at home, for all their old disciples went to church again, 
like good Catholics, and heard the priest, and learnt their 
catechisms, and carried their babies to the font to be signed 
with the sign of Christ's cross. 

But Humphrey Pratt left the village of Rowan Court, 
and went to live somewhere else ; and Nicholas Webb went, 
too, after a while, for he was angry and sour-grained at 
losing Dorothy, and he could not abide to see the old 
religion back again, but liked new ways and strange doc- 

T 2 



276 NOBLE LOVE. 

trines better. And, besides that, all his old companions 
avoided him, out of disgust at the shameful part he had 
played with the banished weaver, and the very children 
cried out at him as he came down the street, •* Dorothy 
Pratt for twenty pounds ! Who'll buy ? who'll buy ?" 

So he said, " That since every man's hand was against him, 
it would be better for him to leave the place," and as nobody 
contradicted his opinion on the subject, he went; and an- 
other keeper took his lodge, and his salary, and let us hope 
he behaved more virtuously than Master Webb had done. 

But Marvel Maxwell himself got a better wife than most 
young noblemen in those days, for he married not for rank, 
nor for money, nor for blood, nor even for beauty, but 
for something far above all these, — something purer, and 
higher, and more blessed. For he loved Dorothy with 
all his heart because she was wise and good, and because 
of the sweetness and patience that looked out of her eyes. 
Well, indeed, had Philip and Marie chosen the name of 
their only child, for God's gift she was to them, and God*s 
gift she had been to Alice Forbes, and to the villagers of 
Rowan Court. And God's gift she was now to her husband, 
loving, and gentle, and good as St Dorothy herself ; and 
whenever she spoke, it was as sweet church-bells, and when 
she smiled, it was bright as the sunshine in May. 

As for old widow Forbes, you may be sure that she 
was well taken care of for the rest of her days on earth. 
Dorothy would not hear of her staying on still in the little 
dilapidated cottage of Gorse Common, but gave her instead 
her own house in the village, — the same that had been 
Philip Pratt's, and was now become his daughter's. 

And after Mistress Forbes died, Dorothy bequeathed it 
for ever as an alms to the poor, and would take no rent 
for it ; that its tenants should be none but the aged, or the 
sick, or the penniless, v/ho could get no home elsewhere. 
But the sign-board and the gilded shuttle were not taken 
down, and they hung above the porch-gable for many a long 
year after Dorothy's generation had passed away, to be 
a memorial to those that came after, of her patient girlhood, 
and of her goodness, and her Christian love. 

Mothers and sisters, standing on their doorsteps, pointed 
the old board out to the little children about them, and taught 
them to read the yellow letters upon it, and told them the 
story of Dorothy Pratt, and how she came to be Lady of 
Rowan Court And the children were never weary of hear* 
ing the story, but would ask for it again and again, until. 
Dorothy became to them a sort of patron saint, and old 
Humphrey and Nicholas stood for the modern Blue-Beard 



NOBLE LOVE. 277 

and Red -Riding- Hood's were-wolf, in their repertory of 
nursery romance. 

But the old shuttle and the sign-board swung and beat 
about in the rain and storm and snow and sunshine of 
many seasons, and nobody mended nor re-painted them, 
so that at last the shuttle fell altogether, and the sign- 
board hung by one rusty hinge. And people say you 
may see it there still, but all that is left of the original 
inscription is, — 



THE ROMANCE OF A RING*, 

IN THREE CHAPTERS, 




CHAPTER I. 

GOLD. 

|0 begin this romance of mine I must retrace three weary 
decades of my autobiography, and call back to my 
memory the time of my early girlhood. I was sixteen 
years old when I lost my father, and was left alone in the world, 
for I was an only child, and my mother had died before I com- 
pleted my fourteenth year. But I was by no means a poor 
orphan. My father, during his last illness, having no relatives 
to whose care he chose to entrust me, confided me to the 
guardianship of his particular friend, an old white-headed 
baronet, who had been Pythias to his Damon at Oxford, 
and whom I had always held in especial reverence and affec- 
tion. Sir Lorrimer Randall was the kindliest, delightfulest 
specimen of that rara avis in terris^ a good old English 
gentleman, that the- sun has ever seen. His consort, too, 
a kissable, rosy-faced matron of some fifty seasons' standing, 
with white dimply hands of very diminutive size, and a quick 
mouse- like deportment, was the very ideal of a pretty old 
lady. I loved these dear ancient people with all my heart, 
and their two children. Vane and Alice, were always my 
special admiration. Very shortly after my settlement at 
Randall Hall, Alice and I became bosom allies, and vowed 
an eternal fidelity and affection to one another, that neither 
lapse of years nor change of circumstance should be able 
to break. I have said that I was sixteen when I became 
an inmate of Sir Lorrimer's house. Alice was two years 
younger, but her brother. Vane, had attained the dignity 
of majority. He was of a very peculiar temperament, and 
his physique was appropriately singular. During my forty- 
six years of experience, I have never come across a duplicate 
of Vane Randall, nor have I ever encountered again so 
strange an expression of face and manner as his. He had 
an extraordinary reserve of character, remarkable in so 

' The leading incidents of this Story are true, but the writer is not at liberty to 
mention how she became acquainted with them. 



28o THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 

young a man, and though I believe that his emotions were 
really stronger and more easily disturbed than most people's, 
and his sense of honour was particularly keen, yet he was 
very rarely betrayed into any outward demonstration of 
feeling, and had an exceptional fondness for solitude. In 
person he was tall beyond the ordinary standard, olive- 
complexioned, and brown - haired, and his eyes, the most 
remarkable and attractive it has ever been my fortune to 
see in or out of a picture. When I first went to live at 
Randall Hall, no longer as a casual guest for a few weeks* 
visit, but to take my place there as a regular member of 
the family circle, I was rather afraid of Vane. His reticence 
and grave demeanour discomfited me, his unyouthful pa- 
tience and quietude annoyed me, and gave me a continual 
sense of being at a disadvantage when in his presence ; while 
yet his evident power of mind, and his easy flow of language 
when he spoke upon any subject of depth or learning, moved 
my admiration and compelled my homage. Alice posi- 
tively adored her brother, and believed in him implicitly. 
I think it was principally Alice's example upon this point, 
and the representations she so often made me of Vane's 
unerring sagacity and surpassing goodness, that first induced 
me to seek his friendship also ; for I thought that one whom 
Alice held so infallible and loved so dearly must needs be 
somewhat beyond the common standard of mortals, and as 
eminently worthy of my adoration as of hers. My first ad- 
vances towards the coveted alliance were made one summer's 
evening by the borders of an ornamental water upon the 
estate of my guardian. I had been gathering wild-flowers 
in the neighbouring copses and meadows, to adorn the 
chamber of my dear Alice, who lay at home indisposed 
with headache, and with whom these children of the hedge- 
rows were always greater favourites than the choicest exotics 
of hothouse or conservatory. Forcing my way through the 
brambles and underwood of the cover, parting the tangled 
branches with my hands, and threading a path in and out 
of the intricate labyrinth of hazel and birch, I came suddenly 
upon a little quiet piece of open, a sloping mound, green and 
soft with the verdure of delicate mosses and ferns, and espied 
Vane reclining in an attitude suggestive of meditation, upon 
the bank of the lake that bounded the charming spot. Vane 
leaned against a mound of tasselled grasses, with his hands 
clasped beneath his head, and an open book upon his knees, 
his deep, wonderful eyes fastened upon the tiny rippling 
waves that broke drowsily on the shore at his feet, and the 
whole expression of his face like that of a man lost in reverie. 
For a moment the excessive brightness of the spot, all bathed 
in the splendour of the summer sunset, dazzled and bewildered 



THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 28 X 

me after the subdued shadows of the wood. I paused, push- 
ing aside the bracken, and shading my eyes with my hand, 
when the rustle of the branches caught his attention, and he 
turned his head and spoke to me. 

"Why, Kate! So you've been wandering, have you? 
And you look tired, too. Come and rest yourself — this 
is an Eden worthy of your observation, I assure you ; the 
loveliest bit of landscape for forty miles round!" I came 
forward, a little shyly, and sat down by his side in the full 
glow of the rosy light, but my heart fluttered uncomfortably, 
and I was still afraid to look him in the face. So, to avoid 
that necessity, and to divert his attention from myself, I 
took from his knees the book he had been reading, and 
found it to be Spenser's " Faerie Queene." 

"Can you read this easily?" said I. "I never can un- 
derstand it, the old English is so difficult to make out." 

"Would you like to understand it, Kate?" he asked me, 
smiling a little. The question confused me — why, I don't 
know ; I suppose I had not expected such a reply, or else 
the tone of his voice was embarrassing. 

"Of course I should, Vane," I stammered, conscious of 
a blush. He took the book from my hands, and sitting 
closer beside me, translated a part of the poem with so 
much fluency and grace, that I forgot my timidity of his 
presence, and lost my self-consciousness in newly-awakened 
admiration of the metrical treasures he unfolded to me. 
I was charmed — enraptured ; and Vane, looking in my 
face as he closed the volume, no doubt perceived the emo- 
tion I had not sought to conceal, and said gravely : 

" I always sit here, Kate, every evening, with some one of 
my books. If you will come with me now and then, I 
think you would like to hear others of my favourite poets. 
Let me see — do you know German well ?" 

I confessed with burning cheeks that I was totally igno- 
rant of it. 

" Well, then,'' said he, kindly, " I will teach it you. Is it a 
compact, Kate ? Shall we read Schiller and Doctor Faustus 
together ?" 

Of course it was a compact, and so also from that day was 
the friendship between my tutor and me. And Alice, when 
she recovered from her indisposition, and found that I went 
every evening with her brother to learn German upon the 
banks of the mere, was very merry at my expense, and 
playfully assured me that she was rapidly becoming a prey 
to insupportable jealousy. Ah, I look back now upon that 
fond tranquil time of my life with bitterness in my soul, 
that bitterness of regret which is sorrow's crown of sorrow, — 
the remembrance of happier things. How swiftly the years 



282 THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 

went by ! How devotedly I grew to love Vane Randall ! 
How proud I was to believe — alas, poor mistaken child that 
I was — that I, and only I, possessed his unbounded confi- 
dence ; that to me alone he was content to shew his hopes, 
his aspirations, his hidden labours ; that in my presence only 
he laid aside his reserve, and spoke out of the very fulness 
and depth of his thoughts, hiding nothing from me, making 
me proprietor of every desire, and idea, and passion that 
occupied his mind ! But there came at last a time when 
this pleasant delusion was to be done away, and I was 
to learn, oh, by what a bitter experience! — how far I had 
been from sharing the real secret of Vane's heart and life. 
Five years of happiness that was almost uninterrupted, of 
peace that was almost untroubled, passed away from me 
at Randall Hall ; and I awoke one sunshiny morning in 
the early spring to the consciousness that I that day at- 
tained the dignity of twenty-one, and that the auspicious 
event was to be duly signalized by a gayer and grander 
ball than had been celebrated in the old country-house for 
half- a- century. There were to be a great many people 
present that evening, to honour me with their congratula- 
tions, whom I had never seen, some whose names I had 
scarcely heard twice in my life, others who were not known 
to me at all ; but of one expected guest I had heard Alice 
often speak with awe, not unmingled with some touch of 
dislike, as I found by the disapprobation she openly expressed 
when her father made known his desire that Mr. Moreton's 
name should be included in the list of the invited for my 
birthday night. 

" Mr. Moreton, papa ?" she said, with a little mot^e of 
surprise, " what is he to do at a ball } Clergymen don't 
dance. He'll only stand in the doorways, and help to block 
up the entrances !" 

But Sir Lorrimer insisted upon the despatch of the in- 
vitation in question, and Mr. Moreton, to Alice's profound 
astonishment, wrote an acceptation in reply. I was flushed 
with excitement and expectancy when I entered the bril- 
liantly-lighted drawing-rooms that night. And the know- 
ledge of my own beauty, though it was none of the rarest, 
was unutterably delightful to me. I floated through the 
night in a sort of dreamy ecstatic gladness; I danced, as 
it seemed to me, upon clouds of lightness, my heart beat 
joyously with a sense of something akin to triumph. Vane 
never danced much, but he waltzed twice that evening with 
me, and I said to myself that if it had not been with me 
he would not have danced at all. There was infinite gra- 
tification in the thought, and the colour burned brighter 
in my cheeks as I rested my hand on his shoulder, and 



THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 283 

plunged for the second time under his piloting into the 
sweet reckless delirium of my favourite deux temps. I saw 
Mr. Moreton several times during the evening, and I learned 
from Alice that her father had made arrangements for him 
to sleep at the Hall, as he was going in a few days to his 
rectory near London, and Sir Lorrimer and he were old 
friends, and had not met for some years. 

" But, Ally," I remonstrated, " is he going to stay in this 
house till he starts for London } Won't 9iat be rather a 
nuisance?" Alice pouted and shook her pretty head in 
self-exculpation. "/ know nothing about it," she said ; 
"don't ask me I Oh, what a tiresome thing, though, Katie?" 
Then she gave her hand to the gentleman who came to claim 
her for the next dance, and they went whirling away to- 
gether down the long bright room. 

But the Reverend Charles Moreton did stay at Lorrimer 
Hall for more than a week ; and though I could not quite 
make up my mind to like him — it seemed somehow disloyal 
to Alice to admire any one she depreciated — I could not 
but admit to my own conscience that his manner was gentle 
and pleasant; and though I daresay Alice would have in- 
dignantly repudiated the notion that he had any pretensions 
to beauty of person, he was at least agreeable to look at, 
and the tones of his voice were incontrovertibly soft and 
melodious. He was a much older man 'than Vane, probably 
by some fourteen or sixteen years, but I thought he assumed 
too much of the patron towards my cher ami^ and I was 
proportionately indignant, and should no doubt have taken 
some method of openly expressing my ire on the subject, 
if Vane himself had only betrayed the least resentment 
towards the man, whom, with some strange unaccountable 
feeling of presentiment, I could not help regarding in the 
light of an intruder and supplanter. 

We saw a great deal of Mr. Moreton after the ball He 
held too livings, one near London, and one in the midland 
counties, which had recently fallen into his possession ; and 
oo-his journeys to and fro he frequently rested two or three 
days at Randall Hall. 

He was with us once in the early autumn, just as the leaves 
began to change their summer brightness for more sober 
shades, and I remember that the season was an unusually 
hot and sultry one. This time he had stayed longer at the 
Hall than on any previous visit — almost a fortnight, and on 
the evening before the day fixed for his departure, Alice and 
he and I had spent a good half-hour beneath a big cedar- 
tree on the lawn, discussing church politics and parochial 
management. But Vane, finding himself unbearably bored, 
sauntered away with an excuse, and Alice herself was soon 



« 



284 THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 

after summoned by the housekeeper to lend the light of her 
countenance to some domestic arrangement indoors. It came 
to pass, therefore, that my guardian's guest and I were left 
alone, and I, possessing very few conversational powers, and 
being aware of my deficiency on that head, was fain to pro- 
pose a tour through the garden alleys and the shrubbery. 
Suddenly, when we were in the very midst of the shrubbery, 
Mr. Moreton stood still and faced me. 

Miss Brandiscombe," he said, with strange abruptness, 
you know that I am not a young man ?" 

I was taken horribly aback by this embarrassing piece of 
intelligence, pointed as it was with an interrogatory emphasis ; 
but I did my best in the emergency of the moment to unite 
the principle of abstract truth with my own sense of personal 
politeness. 

. " I don't think you are very old^^ I said, with an airy laugh. 
But he corrected that levity on the instant. 

" Nor a poor man ?" he added, in the same tone of inquiry. 
I lifted my eyes to his in alarmed silence, and mutely gave 
the affirmation he desired. "I have known Sir Lorrimer 
Vane Randall almost all my life," said he, taking both my 
hands into his, "and there are few things connected with 
my circumstances and career which are unfamiliar to him. 
I believe he has an esteem and attachment for me. Certainly 
I regard him with feelings of the sincerest friendship." There 
he paused, and seemed to be again expecting some pertinent 
observation, but nothing at all appropriate suggested itself to 
me. So I coloured high, and still preserved a sagacious silence. 

"Perhaps you guess already," he continued, looking ear- 
nestly at me, " my motives for reminding you of these things. 
It is that you may not think I deal unfairly with you, or dis- 
honourably towards the gentleman who has so long been 
your guardian and our mutual friend, by preferring the re- 
quest I have resolved upon. Miss Brandiscombe — Kate — 
I am sure that I ask you to do nothing likely to displease 
Sir Lorrimer in entreating you to make me happy — to give 
me the title to protect and adore you — to be my wife." 

He was actually in earnest ! I dropped my ty^s^ and felt 
the crimson blood flaming hotly from my throat to my 
temples. In a moment a hundred swift-winged thoughts, 
reminiscences, and anticipations crowded into my mind, over- 
whelming and confusing the voice of my heart. Vanity, self- 
conceit, the desire of glorification — these were the baneful 
demons busiest with the shaping of my future at that terrible 
instant. I reflected that I was now past twenty-one, that, 
being very pretty, I ought no longer to remain boxed up 
in this country domicile of my ex -guardian's, surrounded 
only by gamekeepers and serving-men, and exhibited occa- 



THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 28$ 

sionally only at a county dinner or a hunt ball. I knew that 
this man who now desired to marry me, after having passed 
forty years in the world unconquered by any woman, was 
looked upon as invulnerable, indomitable, and yet he had 
confessed himself my captive ! What would be said of such 
a splendid conquest ? Little Kate Brandiscombe leading 
the erudite, the savant, the cynical, the magnificent Charles 
Moreton in fetters ! How the affair would astonish Sir 
Lorrimer ! and please him, too, no doubt, as Mr. Moreton 
had said it would. Perhaps, already Sir Lorrimer knew 
of his friend's intention. And Alice — what would she say ? 
Vane 

There a cold shiver seized me, my heart recoiled in my 
bosom, and I felt as though the soft August atmosphere 
had suddenly become an icy wind. I stood silent, unable 
to speak the words that would tear me asunder so irreparably 
from kimy that would destroy so utterly a hope of whose 
existence in my soul I had been unconscious till that very 
moment It is not until we stand on the point of losing 
for ever the possible fulfilment of our desire, that we com- 
prehend how much the desire itself was part of our being. 

Charles Moreton's musical voice broke in upon the thought 
that tore my heart so sorely. 

"Dear Kate, is it to be 'Yes' or 'No?' Will you let 
me be your husband V* 

Vane I Vanel The dear familiar name ran through my 
soul, like the death-cry of that terrible Hope dying in its 
birth. Ought I not to be ashamed of myself — ashamed of 
my weakness — ashamed of such unmaidenly, unsolicited, un- 
requited love ? I had been taught that ** Women should 
be wooed, and not unsought be won ;" and I believed it 
to be decenter and better for a girl to marry where she 
could feel little affection, than so to forget herself as to 
love where she could not marry. And so I accepted the 
escape that Providence seemed to be offering me ; 1 crushed 
the natural morality born within me under the iron of the 
artificial morality I had learned in the world ; I sacrificed 
the first-fruits of my heart to the idol of a false idea ; — other 
women have done the same things since, often and over 
again. I gave t/ie promise that Charles Moreton had asked 
of me, and I thought that in doing it I did well, since I could 
never be the wife of Vane Randall. Never f 

But from the hour I pledged m3rself and my honour thus, 
there seemed to come a change over the still quiet eventide, 
and all the shrubbery about us was astir with an awakened 
sobbing wind. Bough on bough swirled and sighed around, 
and here and there some light crispy leaf, withered by the 
touch of autumn, fell quivering from the rustling canopy. 



286 THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 

overhead, and lay motionless and deathlike upon the gravel 
at my feet I passed out into another world, out into an- 
other life, with the man to whom I had promised all my 
future, the man who was my chosen husband, henceforth 
to be my sole guide and closest companion till the end. 

Hardly had we quitted the shadow of the grove, when I 
perceived Alice hastening towards us. I could not meet 
her smiling happy face at that moment, and I felt that 
her merry laughter and light talk would break my heart. 
So I made a hasty excuse for deserting Mr. Moreton, and, 
promising a speedy return, I turned away from him and 
sped back into the shrubbery. But the next minute I heard 
Alice calling me, and fearing that I should be followed and 
captured either by her or by Charles Moreton himself, I ran 
breathlessly down a narrow cross-path leading to the banks of 
the mere, whither I did not think it likely any one would be 
at the trouble to pursue me. But the intricate maze of small 
winding byways and my own discomfiture of mind bewrayed 
my steps, and I plunged by mistake into the coppice below 
the lake where I had gathered the wild flowers for Alice on 
the day of my first tete-d-tete with her brother. I remembered 
the spot — I remembered the whole circumstances of that by- 
gone evening, the brightness of the sunlight, the feelings of 
my heart, the beauty of the poem he made me understand 
then for the first time! Mechanically I sought and found 
the opening in the low brushwood and bracken that led to 
the mere. But when I stepped out of the coppice on to the 
open rising ground, and fronted the full glory of the swoon- 
ing westward sun, my heart leapt with a great leap into my 
throat, and the turf seemed unsteady beneath me, for there — 
as though that lost day of the Past were indeed restored — 
there, by that identical knoll of tufted grasses, his book lying 
open upon his knees, and his dear grave face turned towards 
the sunset, sat my darling, my friend Vane Randall I And 
when he saw me he rose and made me welcome, as he always 
did, laying his book aside, and as I drew near I looked down 
at it and saw that it was indeed the " Faerie Queene." 
"Katie, dear, you are trembling — what is the matter.? — 
what has happened?" Then I laid my arms about his 
neck, and buried my head upon them, and told him that 
I was engaged to be married to Charles Moreton, that he 
loved me and that I loved him, and that he was gone to 
tell my guardian about it now. And after I had told him 
I fell to crying like the child that I was, my face still resting 
upon his shoulder, hiding and nestling there where I h^id so 
often fled to seek sympathy and comfort before in far lighter 
cares than this. Ah me I how much lighter and more 
evanescent ! 



THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 28/ 

But after a little while, when I found that my friend let me 
sob on in silence, and said not a word to this great piece of 
news, I turned myself slowly in his embrace and looked at 
him, wondering why he did not speak. God pity me ! even 
now I seem to see it all again as I saw it then — the white 
quivering lips, the eyes benumbed as in a dream, the dear 
terrible face that looked no longer like the face of Vane, but 
like an image of it carven in marble ! My sobs died sud- 
denly, choked to silence by the new horror that seized me, 
and a fierce unwonted pain like the touch of fire caught my 
breath midway in my throat, and sopped up the tears that 
had been ready to fall from my eyes. 

** Forgive me, Kate !" said he, at last. " I wish you to be 
very happy, dear, — but — I had thought you loved me more 
than him, and I hoped to have made you my wife this year. 
But it's over now, Katie ; and though I can't help telling you, 
don't let any one else know about it; — we've been playing 
a game of cross -questions together, dear, and I've got my 
crooked answer — that's all." 

Through the dreadful silence his words, sharp and distinct 
in their low measured utterance, fell upon my heart, — words 
that I have heard through more than twenty-five years since 
that autumn evening, reviving, like a constant haunting pre- 
sence, a ghostly regret for the life they blighted,— the life 
that migJit have been; and filling me with a weary un- 
satisfied yearning over the glory of youth and woman- 
hood that perished at that bitter going down of the sun. 

And as I looked up again I saw that the sun had gone 
down, and the gold of my life had gone with it For me, 
henceforth, the grey had begun. 



CHAPTER II. 

GREV. 

That evening seemed to me to have no end. While I was 
dressing for dinner, Alice came into my room and sat down 
by the toilette-table, as it was her custom to do ; but I felt 
that it would be impossible to support any sort of conversa- 
tion with her then, and I could not conceal my swollen eye- 
lids and the disorder of my mind. But Alice did not seem 
at all surprised. She looked at me kindly, and drawing 
down my face to hers, told me, with a kiss, that she knew 
all about it, for Mr. Moreton had already told her and my 
guardian ; that she hoped I should be very very happy, and 
that I mustn't cry. "But, Katie," she added, with one of 



288 THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 

her discontented little grimaces, " do you know I'm not quite 
sure that / shan't cry. I had no idea it was Charles Moreton 
you liked ! Shall I tell you what I thought and hoped ? — 
and now youVe spoilt it all !" 

I could not speak, for at the moment that strange sensation 
which most people seem to. experience at certain seasons per- 
vaded my mind, and I felt with a curious certainty that I 
already knew the words she was going to say, and that 
I could not hinder her from saying them. 

" Well, then," said Alice, after a little pause of hesitation, 
"/ thought it was Vane that you liked, and I said to myself 
and to papa that you two would marry in the end ; and papa 
believed the same, I know ; for when I first told him what 
I fancied about it he pinched my cheek and laughed, and 
said he didn't think me a very remarkable prophet, for hs 
was clever enough to see as much as I did in that particular 
direction ! And, of course, now that you are really engaged 
to somebody else, you won't mind my saying that I am 
a little disappointed — will you ? Because I always promised 
myself that you were going to be my sister in good earnest 
some day." 

Again I could not answer her. / only had sown my own 
misery then, and I had to reap my harvest of bitterness in 
silence. To think that, after all, that very Hope had been 
the hope of my guardian and of Alice, and of Vane himself, 
and that I — / had destroyed and ruined it in my fatal haste 
to be married ! To think that happiness — such happiness' 
would have come so easily to me if I had only waited for 
it perhaps a few days longer, and that everybody was ready 
to rejoice at my gladness ! To think that the sweet fruit had 
been so near to my lips, and that I, in my blindness and folly, 
had voluntarily thrust it away! And then to hear Alice's 
qualified felicitations on my terrible blunder, and to be told 
that she was disappointed in my choice ! Disappointed ! 
She! 

How I wept that night ! How I sobbed and moaned and 
sighed out the dull creeping hours from midnight until dawn ! 
How I hated the returning light and my own life, and the 
pitiless, heartless sun that would rise again and make a new 
day! 

But I never breathed a word of my distress to Alice ; I 
never betrayed myself to Vane ; I never resented a kiss nor 
a word of caress from Charles Moreton. My guardian plainly 
was a little surprised at the engagement, but he made no 
allusion to his son, nor hinted at the existence of the disap- 
pointment Alice had expressed so openly. Then came the 
eve of my wedding-day, and with it, Vane, who had been in 
London for some weeks, returned to the Hall. It was very 



THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 289 

late when he arrived, and Ah'ce had already bidden me good- 
night and was preparing to retire to bed. But when I heard 
Vane come into the house, I was seized with so strong a 
desire to see and speak to him, that instead of going directly 
to my bedroom, I ran down the stairs and encountered him 
in the dim-lighted hall. 

At the sound of my footstep he looked up and greeted me 
with a smile. 

"Ah, Katie!" said he, "I'm glad youVe there— I have 
something to shew you. And you'll be in such general re- 
quisition in the morning that I shan't be able to get near 
you ; so I'll take the chance that Providence gives me, and 
make the most of the present. Smithers, where is there a 
lamp burning.?" 

"In the dining-room, if you please, sir." 
I followed Vane into the great empty room, with its grim 
oaken wainscoting and faded ancestral portraits hanging on 
the walls. 

Vane took a tiny velvet 4tui from his vest and opened it 
before me. It contained a gold ring of three separate circles, 
made in the semblance of a snake, and upon the crest of the 
head was set one large diamond of the first water, an amazing 
gem both for size and lustre. 

"This is my present to you for to-morrow, Katie. You 
must wear it as a guard above your wedding ring. There 
is something written inside, you see, so that you mayn't 
forget me by-and-by." 

He held the jewel beneath the lamp as he spoke, and the 
light fell full upon the inside of the coils. I read this inscrip- 
tion graven there : 

" Vane Randall gives this, with himself, to Kate Bran- 
discomber 

I could not read it twice for the tears that blinded me. 
I could only hold the dear giver to my heart, and let him 
take my thanks in the passionate silence of a last embrace. 
Oh, if even then he could have known how I suffered for his 
sake! If even then he could have guessed how wildly I 
loved him! That night I was nearer to telling him the 
truth than I had ever been before, for I saw that his love 
was not abated towards me, I knew that I was his darling 
still. Would it have been better for us, better for him, if 
I had spoken then, I wonder } 

As I laid the jewel in its velvet case I looked again at the 
inscription within it, and noticed that it was not my married 
name that was engraven there, though the ring itself was 
a wedding gift 

" Why did you not," said I, " write Kate Moreton instead 
of the maiden name I shall forego to-morrow ?" 

U 



290 THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 

" I have never known Kate Moreton," he answered, in a 
low, sorrowful voice. " It is Kate Brandiscombe that I have 
loved, it is Kate Brandiscombe that I shall carry about in 
my heart all my life. And whenever she thinks of me I 
want her to be Kate Brandiscombe again, that my ring may 
be to her not only a 'goodly ornament,' but an 'endlesse 
moniment* of the past." 

He too, then, must have been thinking of the "Epi- 
thalamion." 

«|* «|* ^^ 3p 3p ^^ ** 

I was married to Charles Moreton upon the twenty-fifth of 
October, eighteen hundred and forty-five. And upon that day, 
after I had returned from the church with my new-made hus- 
band, Vane himself added his golden serpent to the single 
coil of the wedding-ring already upon my finger. For I 
would wear no other guard than this gift of Vane's, and I 
would suffer no hand but his to put it on. And he, bending 
over me as I gazed at the shining circles, murmured, 

" There are three coils, Katie — that is the mag^c number, 
you know, and the full elaboration and perfect complement 
of three is nine ; three ones of threes, trinity in unity thrice 
demonstrated. Let the diamond on the serpent's crest stand 
for the adamant of our friendship — the indissoluble bond be- 
tween us — and the allegory is complete!" 

" Ah, Vane," said I, *' what result may not nine years bring 
to that precious friendship V* 

No one was attending to us — we stood apart from the 
guests, and the chiffonier, groaning beneath the weight of my 
costly wedding-gifts, was the centre of the general attraction. 
Vane glanced rapidly across the room, and then, fixing his 
wonderful scintillating eyes upon my face ; " Katie," said he, 
with unwonted earnestness, " something impresses me to make 
you a very foolish request. Keep this ring untouched where I 
have put it. I shall like to think when we are parted that 
you have never moved it from your finger since this day, 
and that where I left it, there it remains." 

"Vane," I answered, all my heart upon my lips, "it 
shall never be moved from my finger until you draw it off 
yourself." Then a sudden thought struck upon my mind, 
and I added hastily, "But oh. Vane, suppose I lose the 
diamond — the symbol of our friendship .^ What shall I 
do then r 

And he answered me, ''If you lose that, Katie, I will send 
you another gift to replace it!' 



THE ROMANCE OF A RING: 29 1 

CHAPTER III. 

SABLE. 

Very shortly after the' return of my husband and myself 
from the Continent, where we had spent our honeymoon, 
and just as I was beginning to settle down in my new home, 
I heard from Alice that Vane had entered the army. 

" After your marriage, Katie," wrote my naive correspond- 
ent, **Vane seemed to grow quite different. He became 
more speculative than ever, but instead of being tranquil 
and serene over his speculations, as he used to be, he turned 
excitable and restless. You may think how surprised we 
were to hear him say one day that he was tired of his quiet 
life, and must have some active profession, something that 
would stir up his energy, and take him into adventure and 
commotion, if possible — into danger. Papa laughed at him, 
and suggested that the season for fox-hunting had set in 
already ; but I knew what Vane was hinting at, and what 
he meant to do. So I was not surprised when he told us 
very calmly last Saturday that the preliminaries were con- 
cluded, and that he had 'got a mount for her Majesty's 
pack.* I think it's in the Lancers. Write to him, Katie ; 
I know he would like to hear from you." 

I wrote as she suggested, and Vane would have come to 
see me, but I feared that if he did I might betray myself 
before my husband. So I sent Vane an excuse, and with 
the letter went also a gage damitU I had prepared for him, 
and which I was sure he would appreciate and value as 
dearly as I did his ring. My present was a double locket 
of plain dead gold, containing in the interior of one fold 
my own portrait, enamelled upon ivory, and bearing on the 
inner part of the fold, opposite the picture, this single line, 
traced in the tiniest of seed pearls : 

"Tvr short time an endlesse monimentJ^ 

Time went on very calmly and placidly with me at the 
rectory, and Charles and I were as happy together as any 
one could reasonably have expected, considering the dis- 
parity of our ages : certainly we were much happier than 
I had believed it possible for such a marriage to make us. 
I did not see so much of Alice as I had hoped to do, for 
Randall Hall was quite in the midst of England, but we 
often exchanged epistolary greetings, and our friendship 
remained as warm and unalterable as ever. Alice would 
not marry. Three years after my marriage, Lady Randall, 
whose feeble health had long before made her a nonentity 

U 2 



292 THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 

in the household affairs, died, and my friend loved Sir 
Lorrimer too dearly to be able to leave him alone, now 
that Vane no longer resided in the old place. It was Alice's 
mission to be a good daughter, and she performed her duty 
with earnest devotion and willing love 

Time is a wonderfully skilful healer of mental disorders, 
and he was a good doctor to me. But I was sorry for my 
husband's sake that we had no child. More than eight years 
of my grey married life had passed away, and no baby came 
to gladden the house and wake the mother's heart in my 
bosom ; no tiny voice babbled in the great luxurious rooms 
where I sat day after day entertaining my visitors or pre- 
siding at my husband's table ; no little pattering footsteps 
disturbed the aching silence of the heavy -carpeted staircase 
^nd the long marble corridors. 

I taught myself to believe at last that the blessing women 
covet and prize so much was denied to me, and that in this 
crowning joy of happy wives and solace of sad ones, I should 
not be suffered to partake. But Providence meant more 
kindly, and decreed that though it was not for me to have 
a child upon earth, I should have one in' heaven. 

Early in the summer of 1 854, a little son was born to me, 
but he was a weakly, tiny infant, and we all saw from the 
first that he could not live long. Three days after his birth 
we gave him the names of Charles Vane, and when the quiet 
ceremony of baptism was over, my husband carried him to 
the couch where I lay, and put him gently into my arms. 
He opened his blue eyes, and looked at me wistfully, as 
though, poor baby, he dimly understood I was some one 
he might have learned to love if he could have lived a little 
while longer, then he dropped his wee tired head upon my 
breast with a little sigh, and died. I do not think I was 
very sorry, for I knew that I had a baby still, and that in 
some quiet corner of Paradise I should find, by-and-by, 
a tiny smiling face that I should know, and hear a childish 
voice that the angels would have taught to call me " mother T* 

My husband's rectory was a very short distance from the 
Norwood Cemetery, in which my father had been buried ; 
and at my request they laid the little coffin beside his grave, 
for I liked to think that they were so close together, and that 
when I was able to go out again, I might sit beside them 
both as they slept so quietly there and still, in their low 
green beds, whereon the grass waved, and the roses bloomed, 
and the sunshine and the rain of heaven came day after day 
to bless the peaceful rest of the dead. 

That practice of burying one's friends in vaults is very 
horrible ! It is so much better to think that those we have 
loved lie out beneath God's wide, open sky, under the clear- 



THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 293 

eyed shining stars and the warmth of the golden summer- 
time, and the soft, beautiful snow that the angels spread 
so reverently over the long graves like a white pall to keep 
the frost and the cold of winter from those who lie below, 
than to know we have put away the bodies of our dead upon 
shelves in a damp cupboard underground, with great iron 
doors and heavy bars shutting them in like the gates of 
a dungeon ! 

But it was very long before I was able to go to the ceme- 
tery. After little Charlie's death I lay a long time so ill 
that it was believed I should die, and I almost hoped so my- 
self, for I had grown terribly weary of the world. But little 
by little my strength came back to me, and at length I used 
to walk up and down the garden -paths, leaning on my 
husband's arm, and watching the companies of swallows 
that congregated and wheeled and darted round the gabled 
roof of the rectory, already assembling for their southward 
journey. At last, one morning about a quarter before nine, 
I crept alone out of my husband's domains and found my 
way to the cemetery. I took with me the latest blooms 
our parterres had yielded, some golden pompones and lo- 
belias, and a few hothouse rarities of fern. Kneeling by 
the two green mounds I had come to visit, I laid my 
flowers across my father's grave with unsteady fingers, and 
hung a wreath of maiden -hair and feathery exotics over 
the white stone cross that marked the resting-place of my 
baby-boy. But, not daring to remain too long upon a 
first expedition after so severe an illness as mine had been, 
and fearing to be overtaken by the rain — for the sky was 
gloomy with gathering clouds, and the wind blew sharply 
and keen from the north-east — I hastened home as quickly 
as my weakness permitted, and retired to my own boudoir. 
As I entered the room, the tiny French clock upon the 
mantelpiece chimed for the quarter to ten. Raising my 
hand to draw aside the muslin curtain that shaded the 
window, my glance was suddenly attracted to some un- 
wonted appearance connected with my wedding-finger. The 
next instant I perceived the nature of this peculiarity, and 
uttered a cry. I had lost my serpent-ring! And straight- 
way with the knowledge of that loss a flood of long- 
slumbering memories awakened within me, and the whole 
tide of my old passionate love poured back upon my heart. 
Only a few weeks ago I had heard from Alice that Vane 
was in the Crimea, and expecting soon to. send us the 
account of some brilliant engagement in which — he had 
gaily written home — he should certainly distinguish him- 
self and earn the most splendid laurels imaginable. Where 
was he now ? what had become of him ? And the ring ! 



296 THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 

waited to see me in my husband's study. She brought me 
his card, but the name upon it was unknown to me — 
** Colonel Somers, Scots Greys." I found him a man of 
stately presence and peculiarly gentle voice, but of so 
haggard and melancholy an expression of face, that the 
very sight of him filled me with pity and sympathetic 
interest. 

" Madam," said he, rising and bowing low as I entered 
the room, **such an utter stranger to you as I have the 
misfortune to be, ought certainly to excuse himself for 
the suddenness of an intrusion like this. But I am' — he 
hesitated a little, and his voice slightly dropped and faltered 
— */ have bcetiy — a friend of Captain Randall ; and being 
brought unexpectedly to England upon some very urgent 
private affairs, impossible even in the present state of the 
war to neglect, I have come here to deliver to you with 
my own hands a packet, the contents of which, I am told, 
must certainly be more rightfully yours than any one else's." 

He placed on the table, as he spoke, a small leathern 
jewel-case, worn and stained, which I did not recognise. 
My thanks rose to my lips, but the tears were ready behind 
them, and I could scarcely trust myself to speak. Colonel 
Somers took pity upon me, seeing me so distressed, and 
dropping his eyes from my face, he added, in his slow, 
musical tones : 

" No doubt you know, Mrs. Moreton, the history of the 
disastrous Light Cavalry charge at Balaclava a month ago. 
It was a dreadful business — the result, probably, of some 
misapprehension between Lord Raglan and Captain Nolan — 
who fell, poor fellow, doing his mistaken duty so admirably 
in the front of the Russian batteries. I did not myself take 
part in the charge, for I belong to the Heavy ; but I saw 
the devoted brigade ride to its destruction, and I never 
shall forget the splendid sight. Cavalry ought on no account 
to act without support ; infantry should always be close at 
hand to back them up ; but we were the only reserve behind 
these men, guns and infantry being far in the rear. The 
brigade advanced in two lines, quickening their pace as they 
went — trot — canter — galop — then a splendid burst! We 
heard them cheer as they flew into the smoke of the Russian 
batteries ; we saw their lines thinned and broken — saw them 
join again— saw them rally. We could catch the flash of 
their sabres as they dashed among the guns, scattering the 
enemy's columns right and left, and striking down the 
gunners. I do not believe one man in the whole brigade 
flinched from the desperate encounter. But gods could not 
have done what those brave fellows failed to do. They will 
settle these things at home, I suppose. I am a soldier, and 



THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 297 

I must pay my tribute where it is due. I never saw such 
magnificent riding, such undaunted courage in my life before 
I saw this, and I have been many years in the Queen's ser- 
vice, so that I speak with some experience of battle-fields 
and military enthusiasm. Those Muscovite wretches should 
have reverenced the unparalleled valour of this Six Hun- 
dred ; but they could neither understand nor appreciate 
it, and they opened their cursed volleys of grape and canister 
upon the returning remnants of the band, and shot the brave 
fellows down as though they had been dogs !" 

Colonel Somers paused a moment, and presently resumed 
in altered and calmer tones : 

" After the whole thing was over, some of our men found 
Captain Randall lying across his dead horse, among the 
foremost of those who had fallen, with his face turned 
towards the guns he had ridden out to capture. They 
brought him to me, because they knew he had been my 
friend. When I opened his vest I saw that he had been 
shot in the heart, and the bullet that had brought him 
his death had passed on its way through a little gold pen- 
dant which I found tied about his neck with a silk thread. 
I hesitated at first to remove it, perceiving how much he 
must have valued it ; but when I reflected that he was 
now no longer able to estimate that value, and that his 
father and sister would dearly prize the little treasure as 
a memorial of him whom they had lost, I altered my mind, 
and laid the trinket aside in a small leather stud-box of my 
own, until I should have an opportunity of restoring it to 
my friend's family. Coming to England so soon after the 
battle, I brought it with me, and yesterday took it to Miss 
Randall at Randall Hall, but she told me it could belong 
only to you ; and I begged your address of her, that I might 
have the satisfaction of giving it myself into your hands." 

I was weeping now unrestrainedly, for I could no longer 
conceal my emotion, and I knew from the tone of the 
voice that spoke to me that Vane's friend himself was 
scarcely less moved. 

" Colonel Somers," said I, " you have done me a kindness 
that no words can repay; and if I fail to thank you suf- 
ficiently, it is because I feel so deeply the goodness and 
delicacy that prompted your visit. But I want to know 
one thing more : the hour at which that disastrous charge 
of the twenty-fifth of October took place. Can you re- 
member?" 

^^The Light Cavalry Brigade^* he answered, *^ charged at 
ten minutes past eleven. By twenty -five minutes to noon^ 
only the dead and dying were left in front of the Russian 
gufts*' 



298 THE ROMANCE OF A RING. 

I had no need to ask further. Exactly at that time, 
allowing for the difference of longitude between London 
and the Crimea, the ring which Vane Randall had given 
me fell from my finger upon the grave of the child who 
was called after his name. But I longed to set my last doubt 
at rest, and I took the morocco itui in my hand. 

"You will excuse me.^" I said, pressing the spring, as I 
looked up at Colonel Somers. 

He bowed his head in acquiescence. 

Alas I alas I It was the gold locket I /tad given Vane nine 
years ago, all riddled and crushed by the bullet that had pierced 
his heat t. 




RELIGIOUS TALES. 



The Children of the Kingdom. 

SyMPHORIAN. CiliDMON. 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 




I. The Teacher. 

ND in the world to come, life everlasting." 

There was a sunset of red flame far away behind the 
sloping hills, and the air was very calm with the calm 
of coming night. 

For the hum and stir of labour in the low-lying village were 
over, and the daily toil was done, and the peasants thronged 
together on the open heights to hear the strange Teacher, wtio 
was come among them preaching of a Life to be Hereafter. 

He stood by the breaking of the cliff, in the full halo 
of rosy light, grand and tall and kingly; and the people 
listened earnestly all round Him while He taught them the 
wisdom and beautiful love of the God whom He called His 
Father. 

Very new and wonderful was the philosophy of this strange 
Preacher. There were none in all the crowds which pressed 
upon Him daily, who had ever heard tell of such a bold speech 
as His. Dimly in the Jewish scriptures of prophets and sacred 
singers, and in the mythologies of Greece and Persia, people 
had caught hints and glimpses rare and far between, of some 
vague life to come, and longingly perhaps and curiously, they 
speculated on what such hints should mean. Here and there 
one or other snatched at mysterious words and promises which 
seemed to savour of the world to be, and anon perchance some 
sorrowful souls, to whom the earth brought forth only briars 
and thorns, were wont to draw consolation from the thought 
that there were unfading flowers in store for them elsewhere. 

But over all rang the unmusical burden of the Preacher- 
King's wisdom : " One thing befalleth the man and the beast, 
as one dieth so dieth the other ; all go to one place, all alike 
are of the dust, and all turn to dust again." 

And the fervour of the ancient religions grew feeble, and 
the shrines of the old-world gods were deserted for the aca- 
demies and groves of the philosophers, and men ran wild after 
new theories and new teachers ; but, after all, none of these 
could venture beyond speculation. 

So Plato and Epicurus, and Zeno and Aristotle, and Pyrrho, 
and a hundred more, reasoned and prated of beauty and truth 
and eternity, and drew away each his five thousand disciples. 



302 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 

and died at last in hope, perhaps, of good to come, but no- 
thing more. 

And as for the Jews, the one great boast and glory of their 
religion was gone ; their peculiar freedom was lost ; their pro- 
phets were dead ; their Jehovah fought no more for them, and 
they were servants and tribute-payers to a conquering lord. 
What was pious faith to a fallen nation like this, whose God 
had been a " man of war," and whose religion had been a sys- 
tem of conquest and sway ? 

But now here was One who taught a new philosophy and 
a new faith, One to whose gentle greatness of soul the whole 
conception of a Jehovah-King was a barbarous phantasy, and 
the traditions of his priests immoral and absurd ; One who 
spoke instead of an All-Father ruling the world in the calm 
grandeur of majesty and wisdom, presiding everywhere, and 
loving all alike ; making His sun to rise upon the evil and 
the good, and sending rain upon the just and the unjust 

Wonderingly the people followed Him from place to place, 
an ever-growing multitude ; wonderingly they gathered about 
Him, and listened while He talked of a God whom He carried 
within Himself; of a universal law of love, and of an eternal 
life that was to Him no matter of doubtful desire, but of cer- 
tainty. And with startled ears and open eyes they heard 
how He put aside each item in their old code of ethics with 
His calmly royal ** But / say unto you." For this strange 
Preacher taught as One having authority, and not as mor- 
tal man. 

So from all the cities and villages through which He 
passed, rich and poor and young and old followed Him in 
multitudes ; some hungry after His doctrine, some in ad- 
miration of the winning grace and poetry of His speech, 
and some for curiosity and wonder at so strange a man and 
so novel a morality. 

And now He stood on the hill and spoke to His audience 
as it was His wont to speak, of the two great themes which 
most He loved to dwell upon — the kingdom of God, and the 
life to come hereafter. 

At His feet, half-hidden in a cleft of the rock, sat a young 
peasant-girl, with soft brown eyes fixed intently upon the 
face of the teacher. Her hands rested on an earthen pitcher 
which she had been filling at the well on the hill-side, and 
a mellow ray of sunset shone over the thick glossy waves of 
her chestnut hair, and on the white folds of her dress. 

Anywhere and at any time this young girl would have 
seemed beautiful ; but now as she sat at the feet of Christ, 
with her sweet face and tender eyes glowing with earnestness 
and devotion, she looked almost an angel. 

And the Teacher spread out His hands towards the west- 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 303 

ern sky, all ablaze with the golden and opal splendour of 
sunset, and His clear eyes kindled as He spoke of the in- 
conceivable glory that was in store for the children of the 
heavenly Father, when death and sorrow and sin should be 
passed away for ever, with all the vanities of earth, and its 
wealth, and its loves, and its pride. 

" For whosoever shall forsake houses or lands or kindred 
for My sake, and for the kingdom of God, shall receive abun- 
dantly more in this present world, and in the world to come 
life everlasting." 

The Teacher folded His arms upon His breast, and stood 
silent awhile, watching the crimson sun as it dipped behind 
the ridge of grey evening clouds into darkness; then He 
looked again towards the waiting peasantry, and dismissed 
them with a grave, kingly gesture of farewell, and a word of 
warning that the hour was late. And one by one and 
thoughtfully they obeyed, and streamed down the pathway 
of the hill into the village below, until He was left on the 
heights with twelve only. 

The peasant-girl with the brown eyes was among the last 
to go. Slowly and silently she raised her pitcher from the 
ground, slung the hempen cord across her shoulder, and went 
on her way alone, musing. 

Homeward along the diff behind her came a young man, 
singing to himself snatches of quaint old ditties, and his 
frank, bright face was the face of one who found the world 
very flowery and pleasant, and was well contented with its 
sweetness, nor had a thought of care beyond it. 

Suddenly he espied the peasant-girl in front of him toiling 
down the hill with her burden. " Mona ! Mona ! " he shouted, 
''stop for me, I'll carry your pitcher!'* and presently he was 
beside her and had loosened the cord from her shoulder and 
slung it upon his. 

** I've been supping with my Uncle Caius, Mona," he said, 
"and he's coming over to-morrow to see us. How is Nurse 
Esther to-night.^ no worse, I hope, dear?" Then, without 
waiting for an answer, "Who is He, sister.?" and he glanced 
over his shoulder in the direction of the heights behind them. 

"Jesus the Nazarene, the Teacher of Galilee," she said. 

" What does He teach ? " asked the boy, lightly. 

" The kingdom of God," answered she. 




304 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 



II.— Death. 

A LITTLE room darkened and still, a sweet aroma of 
flowers, and an open white-draped couch, whereon lay one 
quiet and pale and patient, waiting for the Angel of Death. 

And a young girl with brown eyes sitting beside the dying 
with a roll of the Scriptures upon her knee, and a sweet voice 
that read from them a hymn of the old Psalmist King's, 
softly and low, like a maid who reads to her lover. 

" O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night 
before Thee. 

" Let my prayer come unto Thee, incline Thine ear to 
my cry. 

*' For my soul is full of trouble, and my life draweth nigh 
unto the grave. 

** I am numbered with them that go down into the dust, 
I am become as one that hath no strength. 

" Free in the freedom of death, like the dead that lie in 
the grave, whom Thou rememberest no more, for they are cut 
off" from Thine hand. 

"Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness and 
in the deeps. 

"Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and Thou hast made 
me fearful with all Thy storms. 

"Thou hast put away my beloved from me, Thou hast 
made me an abhorrence unto them ; I am shut up and can- 
not come forth. 

" Mine eyes mourn by reason of sorrow ; Lord, I have 
called daily upon Thee, I have spread out my hands unto 
Thee. 

" Wilt Thou shew wonders to the dead ? shall the dead 
arise and praise Thee } 

" Shall Thy loving kindness be declared in the grave, or 
Thy faithfulness in destruction ? 

" Shall Thy power be known in the dark, and Thy righte- 
ousness in the land of forgetfulncss ?** 

Then Mona's heart failed her at those dreary words, and 
she bowed her fair head over the scroll and wept sore. And 
at the sound of her tears the dying woman stirred upon her 
pillow, and said brokenly in a whisper : — " Hush, darling, 
not for me, not for me ; say to thyself, ' God gave and God 
will take away ;' we all come to it in time, it is no new thing 
to die, I am going to the land of forgetfulncss, where there is 
peace. Forget, forget, my darling !" 

But Mona turned her heifer's eyes upon the white face, and 
made answer gently, — " Mother, the Teacher says that the 
children of God have everlasting life." 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 




THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 305 

Then there was silence between them, and the vine upon 
the outer wall of the room beat the closed lattice with its 
swaying tendrils, like a death-watch tapping through the 
stillness. And presently a voice at the doorway said, "Mona, 
Mona, may I come in .^" 

" Yes, Azriel, come ; I think she is dying." 

And again they were together, the frank-faced boy and his 
peasant sister, standing hand-in-hand beside the dying, sad 
and silent, for they were both her children, though she had 
not given birth to both. For Azriel's mother had died when 
he was born, more than twenty years back, and this woman 
Esther had taken her place then and kept it ever since, and 
Esther's child was to him a twin sister, for they grew up 
together and were companions and playmates from the first, 
and Azriel had no other sister than she. 

But his father, Ephraim, had married again, and the new 
wife was a Roman and an infidel, tall and proud and gloriously 
beautiful, and the peasant-nurse and her daughter found no 
favour in the ungracious eyes of Hyperia. Neither cared she 
greatly for Azriel, because her love was bent only upon her 
husband and her little son ; but Azriel took nothing of that 
to heart, for the love of his foster-sister made up to him for 
all else, and he was young and careless. 

But now sorrow was come over his life, the first he had 
known, and it was very heavy and unmusical to him. 

So they stood there, he and Mona ; in the quiet, darkened 
room, watching, and all through the silence the vine knocked 
at the casement, and to Azriel's straining fancy it sounded 
like the approaching footsteps of the black-robed Sammael. 
But in Mona's heart there ran a single thought, " In the 
world to come, life everlasting," 

But she said no word. 

Then, while they stood looking, Esther stretched out her 
hand feebly and uncertainly, as though it were night, and 
her white, dry lips unclosed. 

"Mona.**' 

And the girl stole softly to her side. 

" Mother. I am here," she said. 

The thin hand groped its way towards her across the 
couch, and Mona took it gently and laid it in hers, and 
clasped it there lovingly. 

" It is dark, dark, so dark," said the dying woman. " Mona, 
where is the light }" 

Azriel opened a side of the lattice softly, and the mellow 
rays of the sunset fell full upon the white drapery of the bed, 
and on the wan face, in a flood of golden glory. 

" There is light, mother," said Mona, bending over her, and 
speaking tenderly. 

X 



306 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 

But Esther answered nothing. 

Then Azriel, watching her always with sorrowful eyes, 
turned them now upon Mona, and his voice sounded hard 
and strange, like the voice that speaks to one in fever dreams. 

" Sister, it is over. She is dead." 

O me ! how well we all know this picture ! You know it, 
reader, you have seen it somewhere at some time or other of 
your life : — that quiet darkened chamber, those sweet-scented 
roses in the vase by the bedside, that motionless waxen-like 
face upon the white pillows. And you have heard some one 
say those words in a whisper through the aching stillness, 
words that dropped one by one upon your heart as though 
each were spoken hours after each, words that seemed to 
repeat themselves in louder echoes again and again after 
they were said, while you sat still by that bedside, and 
looked with dry eyes, that you could not move, upon the 
wondrously still form lying there. 

And if you have not yet seen that picture, nor heard those 
words, you will some day, for they come to all in turn and 
in time. And when they come, remember that in the world 
to come the children of the kingdom have everlasting life. 

Then Mona put out her hand, and drew her brother closer 
to herself, and looked into his face. 

" Azriel," she said, " did you hear what the Teacher of 
Galilee told us last night .^" 

" No, sister," he answered dreamily, " I was not there to 
hear." 

" He said," she went on, slowly and steadily, with her 
brown eyes fixed upon his, " that the children of God's king- 
dom have eternal life." 

** It may be, Mona ; but who are the children of the 
kingdom .?" 

" I cannot tell, Azriel." 



HI. — A Conversation. 

" Son, son, why do you sit there dreaming so long ? You 
are a man, Azriel, and must not let a first sorrow master 
you. For Mona, it is natural enough ; but you have another 
mother, and a father too, but she is an orphan. Up, my son, 
up and get the better of this excessive grief. Go out into 
the garden and walk with your Uncle Caius for a while; 
I see him under the plane-trees speaking with Mona." 

And Ephraim laid his hand for a minute on the boy's 
head, but Azriel looked up into his father's face, and said, 
'• Father, have you heard of Jesus of Nazareth ?" 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 307 

"The Galilean Prophet?" answered Ephraim, more thought- 
fully ; "yes, Azriel ; what of Him ?" 

" He says that the children of God's kingdom have eter- 
nal life. Father, who are the children of the kingdom, think 
you r 

" The sons of Abraham, I suppose, Azriel," he said. 

•* And what of eternal life, father ? " 

Ephraim passed his hand over his eyes. " I do not know, 
my son. There are many who like to believe in a world to 
come ; it is a beautiful hope, and I hold it a wholesome one 
withal ; but there is nothing certain. Say you the new Pro- 
phet speaks of it ?" 

" Mona told me, sir, — she has listened to His speech, and 
is greatly taken with it, for His words are very grave and 
sweet." 

Ephraim stood still, and looked earnestly at his son's face. 

" Azriel," he said, " is it Esther's death that has changed 
you thus, and set you thinking of these things ?" 

" I thought nothing of them before, father ; but then the 
Prophet was not here." 

"Then Ephraim sighed very deeply, and said: — "Child, 
when I was a younger man, I loved to believe in the life to 
be, the hereafter, that this Jesus preaches, — for the poetry 
and the dignity of the thought that I was immortal, was 
pleasant to my youth and sweet to my pride. But I am 
a Sadducee now, Azriel, or almost one, for I have seen too 
much of death to believe longer in its powerlessness. Your 
mother Hyperia laughs all this to scorn, my boy, for you 
know she holds no creed nor faith of any sort, and, indeed, 
methinks sometimes she is in the right of it. But if you list 
to believe in more than we can see, Azriel, it may make 
you happy for a time, as it made me, until I put away my 
boyhood, and grew into the reason and judgment of a man. 
And it is good to be happy even if the spring of one's hap- 
piness be a myth and a vague phantasy." 

"//*it be," said Azriel, "but what, father, if it should be 
real?" 

" Then so much the better for us, my son ; we shall know 
it in due time, and the glory of the new day wjU be all the 
greater when we wake, for that we lay down to sleep not 
expecting it." 

" But there is a condition, father, — the Preacher says, TAe 
children of the kingdom have everlasting life ; and what if we, 
just because we lay down expecting no coming day, should 
awake in the darkness, and so lie with open eyes through 
the night for ever ? That would be worse than not waking 
at all." 

" I know what you mean, Azriel ; but I believe in your 

X 2 . 



308 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 

hell less even than in your heaven. Think for yourself, and 
decide in the matter according to the measure of your reason, 
which, after all, is the best guide, and the safest, for every 
man. Only remember, it is the sounder philosophy to doubt 
until there is reason to believe, than to believe until there is 
reason to doubt." 

" But who are the children of the kingdom, father, — not 
the sons of Abraham only i For have you not said that God 
is just, and if He be just, shall not all the world share in His 
gifts?" 

"We are His peculiar choice, Azriel, they say; but this 
is a question that has to do with the life to come, of which 
we have been speaking. But all our work, my son, is to 
keep God's commandments and walk in His ways ; this is 
our duty, and with more than this we have not to do. If 
there be more, He has not told us of it yet, but it shall be 
given, doubtless, to those who obey Him for fear of Him 
only, and in the hope of no reward. For, after all, it is a 
base thing to do well for the sake of gain in the end, and 
a coward*s part to avoid sin for terror of punishment I am 
a philosopher as well as a son of Abraham, my boy, and 
I hold that present happiness, which is the result of virtue, 
is the highest good of men ; and that to be happy here be- 
cause we do well is all we can desire or strive after. With- 
out virtue there is no happiness, so that the one is not the 
reward of the other, but its natural element and sequence. 
And were it otherwise, then should we choose virtue with 
pain, rather than vice with greed, for to seek a reward is 
mean, and dishonourable to our manhood. But for any after 
life, Azriel, we know nothing of it — we walk in very g^eat 
darkness, and though the light would be pleasant to our 
eyes, yet, if we have it not, it is our wisdom to content our- 
selves in the night." 

" But," said Azriel, earnestly, with his eyes full turned 
upon his father's face, " if One come to us with light, why 
should we not walk in the light rather than remain groping 
in the darkness .?" 

*' Many such have come to us with their lanterns, my son, 
but they have burnt out after a while, and then the night is 
all the deepeV and the darker, for the light that was and is 
quenched" 

'* Father, the Teacher carries no lantern. Mona says He 
is Himself the Light of the world. If, then, He be the Light, 
there is no longer danger of it burning out." 

" But how long will He remain with us .?" said Ephraim, 
with pity in his eyes and scorn in his tone. 

" Mona told me, sir, that He would be with us always, even 
unto the end of the world." 




THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 309 

" That," said Ephraim, " cannot be, unless He were very 
God Himself. Your Prophet blasphemes, methinks, Azriel. 
Have a care, my son, for we must not listen to nor have to 
do with those who handle holy things like toys." 

Azriel lifted his eyebrows. 

" I never heard you speak on this fashion before, father," he 
said ; " but if that be indeed your thought, why did you ** 

He paused, and his face crimsoned. 

Then a cloud came over the man's brows, and he spoke 
uneasily, and almost like one who is humbled. 

" Why did I marry your stepmother ? you mean, I sup- 
pose, child. Because I loved her, Azriel, and because I was 
sad and lonely, and she brought joy into my life with her 
beauty and her love for me. And, besides, Azriel, she is no 
follower of the gods of Rome, as is her brother Caius ; you 
well know she contemns that superstition as greatly as our 
faith. She has done no one harm with her strange thoughts, 
my son, and she has made the world pleasant to me, which 
else had been very barren and bitter." 

Then Azriel was silent ; but his father's words sounded to 
him more like a defence than an explanation. It was one 
thing, he perceived, for a philosopher to theorise, and another 
for him to act after his theories. And, somehow, certain 
words of the Preacher, which Mona had repeated to him, 
came into his mind. 

" For whosoever loveth wife or kindred, or the things of 
this present world, more than Me, is not worthy of Me." 

But Ephraim passed by, and Azriel rose and went out into 
the garden. 



IV. — ^Another Conversation. 

Mona was gathering white roses, to weave of them a 
garland for her mother's grave, and Caius came upon her 
at her pious work. 

This Caius was Hyperia's younger brother, an officer in 
the imperial legions at Jerusalem, and he was come down 
to Lebonah for a while to visit his sister and her husband. 

And at their house he found the brown- eyed peasant, and 
her sweetness and her beauty won and tempted his heart 
as nothing before had ever done. For ten years' work in 
Caesar's service had made the man hard and careless of all 
tender and gentle things, and the grossness of the religious 
faith he held, had wrought him worse harm still. 

So from the day he found Mona, he laid snares for her 
in his dark soul, and spent many a sweet look and honey 



310 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 

word to catch the fatherless girl. And when Esther died 
and left her an orphan and alone, Caius thought himself 
sure of his prize, for now who was there to withstand him ? 
Not his sister, for she never dropped her eyes so low as 
Mona ; nor Ephraim, for the girl would be too shy to ask 
counsel of him in a love matter, and Caius had, besides, 
a ready tongue and a fair smile. 

So he came to-day upon Mona, as she gathered her flowers 
in the garden, and he said — 

" Sweet one, what do you ? and what is this wreath you 
make ? " 

"Sir," she answered, without raising her eyes, ''it is for 
my mother's grave." 

" You are all alone now, Mona," he said, after a minute. 

" I have Azriel," she answered him again. 

The brow of Caius grew black at this. 

'* Do you love him very dearly ?** he asked. 

" Yes," said she, simply. 

" More than you loved your mother, Mona .^" 

** No, sir. My mother was dearest of all to me ; but she 
is dead." 

And there were tears in the brown eyes, and a sob in the 
sweet, voice. 

" Do not weep, pretty one. There is better love than even 
a mother's," he whispered, watching her fair face like a snake ; 
" and it may be yours, if you will have it so." 

She looked up surprised, for she thought of the love of 
God and knew that Caius was a pagan. Was it possible 
that he, too, had heard the Teacher, and believed Him ? 
She wondered. But the man went on — " You marvel, sweet 
Mona, at my words ; but by the gods they are true, for it 
is of myself that I speak. I love you, Mona, and though 
I cannot make you wife of mine, that matters not, for I am 
rich and great, and you poor and lowly, and alone and sor- 
rowful besides. Come, my beautiful Mona, leave sadness 
and tears for eyes less bright than yours, and foi^et your 
loss in my love." 

Then the white garland of roses fell in the dust at Mona*s 
feet, and the small quivering fingers that had held it went 
up to hide her face, and there was silence. 

Caius wondered. Was he defeated, or was this merely 
a maiden's trick of bashfulness, the natural result of his 
words ? 

He looked down at the roses lying bruised and soiled in 
the pathway, and then again at the statue-like figure before 
him, standing motionless, with its fair head bowed upon its 
hands. Then he found his wily tongue once more, and 
said — 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 




:i 



>^ 



I 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 31I 

" Come, Mona, sweet, what ails you ? You are but a 
peasant, remember, and it were no shame to you thus to 
link your love with mine, who am a Roman, and noble 
withal, ril make you happy, sweet, I swear, and stand 
between you and poverty and loneliness ; for you are alone 
now, Mona, bethink you." 

But no answer came from her, nor did she look up. 

Somehow the man grew awed. He could easily have 
pulled aside the little white hands, and have unveiled the 
face beneath ; but his fingers were shy of the work, and 
he did not dare touch her. 

So he kicked the stones at his feet, and was silent too. 

Footsteps came along the pathway towards them, nearer 
and nearer, and Caius looked up and saw Azriel. A minute 
or two before he would have cursed the boy for his coming ; 
now it was something like a relief to him, and he felt almost 
thankful for it. 

" Why, Mona ! sister Mona ! what has come to you ? Dost 
weep, sweetheart ?" 

Caius stepped forward to meet him with a smile that was 
meant to be innocent, but which was perhaps rather more 
hyaena-like than he suspected. 

" It is a little outbreak of weeping because of Esther, 
methinks, nephew," he said, in a whisper. " For, look you, 
she has been weaving a garland for the dead, and musing 
doubtless the while of the things gone by. I have said what 
I could to console her, but in vain, Azriel. Perhaps it were 
well to leave her alone for a time. Grief like hers is best- 
undisturbed." 

And he laid his arm upon his nephew's, and made shift 
to draw him aside into a byway among the shade of the 
tall plane-trees. 

But, with all Azriel's respect for Mona's supposed sorrow, 
the longing within him to comfort her was stronger still. 

So he left Caius standing beneath the planes, and went 
and touched Mona softly on the shoulder, and said he, 
*' Sister." 

Then Mona dropped her hands from her white face, and 
looked into his ; but there were no tears in them, nor any 
sign of weeping. 

And Azriel sat down wondering upon a basil bank, and 
drew her gently beside him, with her head hidden on his 
neck. So for a while they sat, and neither spoke, but Caius 
watched them from beneath the plane-trees. 

Then said Azriel : — " Sister mine, why do you tremble so, 
and what did ail you when I came upon you but now, and 
saw you stand so strangely and still } You must not be sicR 
of heart, Mona, for remember I am left, and the time is now 



3! 2 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 

come that you and I should be dearer than ever. Let us 
sit here and talk together for a while, little sister, for I have 
many things to say to you, and the evening air is soft, and 
pleasant with flowers." 

So Mona lifted her head from Azriel's shoulder, and laid 
her hand in his, and they sat there upon the bank of sweet 
basil and talked, and Caius watched them always, like a 
snake that watches his prey ; but never a word he heard of 
all they said, for their voices were low, and he far off beneath 
the rustling planes. 

And Azriel told the peasant-girl all the things his father 
Ephraim had spoken that evening, and how he had warned 
him against the Prophet of Nazareth, saying that He blas- 
phemed God in His teaching. And Azriel said: — "What 
think you, Mona, did the Teacher mean when He spoke of 
being with us until the end of the world ?** 

Then Mona pondered for a while, and answered him 
doubtfully, — " I do not know, brother ; but I think that, 
too, had somewhat to do with the kingdom of God." 

"How?" asked he. "Is not the kingdom of God yet to 
come.?" 

" No, I think not," said Mona. " It is something, Azriel, 
that must begin here, something that we must make for our- 
selves, — I know not how or where ; but the Teacher bade 
men to leave all and follow Him. And if one would be 
wiser or better than others, He says always this same thing, 
— * Leave all and follow Me.' And He said, moreover, that 
only they who so follow shall have eternal life." 

" Then, Mona, the children of the kingdom are they who 
follow the Teacher.?" 

But Mona looked sad and doubtful, for she thought of 
her dead mother. 

So Azriel lifted her fair face to his, and kissed her, and 
spoke words of comfort and love to her, and the two rose 
and went together into the house. 

But never a word Mona told Azriel of all that Caius had 
said that day. 

Then came Caius from beneath the plane-trees, and there 
was an evil look upon his dark brow, and an evil thought 
in his dark heart, for he said to himself, " She has told him 
of all I have spoken, and he has consoled her and kissed 
her, and given her counsel, and promised her no doubt 
many a fine thing. But I will have my will yet with the 
foolish girl, and Azriel shall not trouble me long." 




THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 313 



v.— Of Philosophy. 

That same evening Azriel stood alone in the doorway 
of the house, and all the wide landscape before him was 
golden with light, and the tall cliffs of the Samaritan hills 
shewed white and sharp in the clear glow of sunset. 

And Azriel understood all the beauty and the music of 
the land, and his soul looked out of his eyes in silence, 
adoring the silence around. Then presently Ephraim came 
where he stood, and laid his hand on the boy's shoulder. 

"Azriel," said he, "it is near .sunset. Go out and find 
me your mother and Caius ; they are yonder somewhere 
on the hills ; and bid them come in, child, as quickly as 
may be, for supper is ready." 

So Azriel went out on his errand up the pathway of the 
cliff, and his eyes were fastened on the ground as he went, 
and he was grave at heart and dreamy, for the thought of 
the Nazarene prophet, and for the thought of his father 
and Mona. 

Two figures came down the heights towards him, walking 
together like the two sins of self-conceit and self-love ; the 
one tall and beautiful in her thirty- eight years' glory of 
womanhood, with broad swelling bosom, and eyes like living 
sapphires, and luxuriant orange hair, all frothed and wreathed 
about her 'veiled head like a flame. And he who walked 
beside her was her brother, the evil-eyed Caius, younger 
than she by some five years, with cunning broArs, and quick 
lithe smile that came and went continually. And he, seeing 
Azriel coming, looked up and cried, — 

" Why, here, I protest, sister, is the hope of the household ! 
Whither now, nephew mine ?" 

Then Hyperia lowered her steep level brows and frowned 
at those words, for she had a little son of her own, and hated 
that another woman's child should be preferred before him ; 
but the evil heart of Caius beat faster as he watched her. 

So Azriel lifted his head in the same grave mood, and 
told them his father's message and the lateness of the hour, 
and never another word, for his mind was full of busy 
thoughts. And Hyperia made answer lightly, and her red 
lips curled with contempt as she spoke ; but the frown was 
gone from her brow, for she pitied Azriel's sorrowful humour. 

"We had been earlier, Azriel, but for our strange enter- 
tainment on the slopes yonder. Didst ever hear, child, in 
all thine old nurse's baby-lore, of a kingdom of God and 
everlasting life?" 

And the sapphire eyes were full of disdain, and the broad 



314 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 

bosom shook with low derisive laughter. But Azriel woke 
like one out of sleep, and looking earnestly in her fair scorn- 
ful face : — " The kingdom of God, mother," he said ; " who 
told you of that ? whence come you ?'* 

'* From hearing I know not what of mad talk/' she an- 
swered ; " for there is One in the meadows over the hill, 
whom I take to be either wholly distraught or partly a fool ; 
or maybe He is some poet whom rapture of the golden vision 
hath driven frantic, so that He must needs go out and babble 
of it to the unlearned and the curious, who stand all round 
Him with mouths agape, and eyes like the moon." 

" It is the Prophet of Nazareth," said Azriel, reverently ; 
"you have heard Him then, and are not holden by His 
language ?" 

Hyperia's laugh rang like golden coins. 

" Prophet r she sneered. " Are you but just out of youf 
swaddling-bands, Azriel, not to have yet outgrown such 
dotard's stories as these } That old-world title hath lost its 
meaning in these days, for those at least who hold wisdom 
and fact to be of any worth ! What is this strange phantasy 
of the blood that consumes men so, in spite of reason itself? 
Why, here is my brother Caius, whom years and observatioo 
should have made wise, but he still sticks like a thirsty leech 
to those old gods of his which long since philosophy hath 
knocked over and destroyed !" 

And she turned her glorious eyes upon the man beside 
her and laughed again. 

Caius put his hand on her arm deprecatingly, and spoke 
in a tone of horror. 

" Sister ! sister ! why will you talk in this strain } For less 
blasphemy than yours, believe me, the divine gods have been 
pleased to drop death from heaven as a punishment." 

" Wherefore," she returned with scorn, " you wonder greatly, 
O credulous Caius, that I do not wither and shrink into 
parched nothingness before your eyes, or fall down maybe 
under one of Jove's redoubtable thunderbolts, a just warning 
to all infidels and misbelievers !" 

But Caius had put his fingers in his ears, and turned his 
head away, so greatly was he shocked at her light words. 

For it was this man's policy to ape the ways and opinions 
of religionists ; it gave him a certain standing and credit of 
position in Caesar's service, which more liberal thinkers did 
not possess. Moreover, he was neither strong-minded nor 
intellectual enough to adopt Hyperia's doctrine ; religion he 
found a much more easy garment than philosophy, and one 
too that could be more loosely worn, and met with greater 
approval in the eyes of others. And though he did not 
much trouble himself to believe all he professed, yet his re- 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 31$ 

Hgion was a comfort and a screen to him in its way, for if 
sometimes his deeds caused him any uneasiness of con- 
science, it was soon set to rights by the simple reflection 
that all the gods had done the like in their several careers. 
But blasphemy he could not tolerate, for had ever any god 
denied himself? 

As for Hyperia, she was too proud to conform to any re- 
ligious creed, when she saw no reason to believe it ; and 
rather than encumber her scornful soul in a dress which did 
not fit it, she put aside every sort of faith from her, and stood 
up boldly in her own nakedness before all the world, un- 
ashamed, and utterly careless of opinion. There was a cer- 
tain nobleness and grandeur about this woman's character, 
which even Azriel owned and admired, while he shrank from 
her fearless talk. Many in those days thought as she did, 
but not many were so indifferent to popular prejudice as to 
spit their thoughts in its very face. But Hyperia cared not 
a straw what conformists said of her ; she believed nothing, 
and openly denied everything, dethroning all the gods that 
ever were or should be, to set up in their room what she 
called the only law-giver and guide of humanity — reason. 

And Hyperia was tolerably happy in her philosophy — 
tolerably happy, for she had not yet found the highest good ; 
but she was better off than Caius, with his superstition, and 
the craft and licence which fitted into it so well, — better off 
than Ephraim, with his Sadducean dogmas, and his reason- 
able religion and unhopeful faith ; for she threw all these 
things off, and crushed them down under her scornful feet 
and stood above them, grand in her weakness and proud in 
her own unwisdom ; yet stronger and wiser than either the 
pagan or the Jew. So she curled her lips at Caius, and 
turned upon Azriel. 

'* You are curious, child, I see," she said, " to know what 
folly this Man doth teach. Well, well, it will do you no 
harm, for one can never expect to be prepared against such 
vain talk unless one has heard it. No bird can outfly an- 
other before he has come up with him. To-morrow, Azriel, 
you can go and amuse yourself by hearing this outrageous 
Prophet, as the people call Him." 

But Caius caught the last words, as he dropped his fingers 
from his ears, and put in his oar eagerly : 

**Nay, nephew, if you have a mind to hear Him, go now, 
for it is not so very late after all, and He may be gone to- 
morrow ; for I heard say He is on His way up to Jeru- 
salem." 

Both Hyperia and Azriel wondered. What ! this bigot, 
who so shrank from blasphemers of his gods, recommending 
to his nephew the Teacher of a new faith I 



3l6 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 

But the next moment the man saw his mistake in their 
faces, and went on as though he had not seen it : — 

"You are pale and in ill sort, Azriel, and the evening 
breeze will do you much of good. And as for the Man 
Himself, why He is at least silent of the gods, and not so 
your mother. We will take care to let them know at home 
whither you are gone, and keep your share of the supper 
untouched. And look you, boy," he added, as though a 
sudden thought had taken him, *'come and meet me upon 
the hill on your way back, for I love a stroll by moonlight" 

So Azriel nodded consent gladly, and turned to go on his 
road, and Caius laid his hand, cold and damp like a lizard, 
on his, and hissed like a lizard in his ear, — "Remember, 
Azriel, the footpath along the cliff." For he thought, ** It 
will be dark presently, and the cliff is high and steep ; and 
while we walk together, I will take care to have him nearest 
the edge of it. What then ? I remember Mona, and he who 
stands between us, her counsellor against me ; — no need of 
force, a little push of the arm ; — I am alone upon the cliff ;- — 
the girl is mine ; and where are the witnesses ? No, no, the 
boy's foot slipped, and he fell before I could put out my 
hands to save him. There is weeping and dole, and I go 
about softly. Such things have been, and will be again ; do 
we not read them in the histories of the divine gods .?" Then 
they parted ; and as he went, 

"Good-bye, mother!" cried Azriel. 

" Ay, good-bye," said Caius, under his breath. 




VI.— Azriel is called. 

The Preacher had finished His daily task, and His hearers, 
save only a chosen number, had left Him and gone to their 
homes before Azriel came where He was. 

He was standing on the brow of the hill, in the midst 
of that grave, saintly little group, and Azriel leaned against 
the stem of a shadowing sycamore, and watched them re- 
verently. 

Long time he stood there, gazing and listening, all en- 
amoured of the Preacher's gracious presence and hungry 
of His speech, yet not daring to draw near to Him lest 
such boldness might be rebuked ; but now and then a lift 
in the wind, or a turn of the Preacher's head, brought a few 
words to his ears, and from these he could gather that the 
Galilean Teacher was speaking still of the kingdom of God. 
And he saw that the faces of those who stood about Him 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 31/ 

glowed with something akin to adoration as they hastened, 
drinking in His speech with thirsty silence ; or, if sometimes 
one would ask Him somewhat, addressing Him as " Lord," 
even as though He were divine. 

Strange thoughts rose in AzrieFs heart while he stood 
under the sycamore-tree and heard these things — strange 
thoughts about the kingdom of God, and about eternal life, 
and about the Preacher Hiitiself Who was He, he wondered, 
that these men had so great awe of His presence, and took 
so great care to call Him by that reverential name ? 

Then while he wondered, the darkness fell softly about the 
hill ; and through the darkness the lights began to quiver 
in the village below ; and He whom Azriel watched drew 
His mantle around Him, and came on towards the sycamore- 
tree, and His disciples followed. 

Something rose in AzrieFs soul as that wondrous One 
drew near — something that he had never felt before ; some- 
thing that made him long to rush out of his hiding-place and 
fall before His feet, entreating to be always with Him to see 
His face and hear His words ; something, too, it was that 
made the boy's eyes droop and his head bend worshipfully 
as the Preacher came closer to him, even as though he had 
been in the very presence of God. And another moment, 
he thought, and the Preacher would have gone by, and he 
perhaps might never see Him again. Oh what should he 
do, — he asked himself almost wildly, — what should he do to 
become one of those children of God of whom the Preacher 
said that they had eternal life ? Like an answer to his 
thought came two words almost in his ear, stern and sweet, 
like a command, — 

"Follow Me!" 

Azriel looked up surprised, and saw the Prophet standing 
before him. Then in a moment he remembered what Mona 
had said about those who left all to follow Him, and that 
they only were counted the children of the kingdom ; and 
there was hope, and longing, and gladness in his eyes, for 
he thought of the gloomy-hearted Ephraim ; and how he 
would go home and tell him he had found the Light of 
the world and the kingdom of God. And how his father 
should rejoice with him, and bless him, before he went ; 
and how perhaps he might fetch Mona also, that she might 
go with him. 

So he answered readily, and mindful of the title the dis- 
ciples gave their Master : — " Lord, I will follow Thee, but 
suffer me first to go and bid them farewell which are at 
home at my father's house." 

But He of the clear eyes looked steadfastly and sternly 
in Azriei's face, and said, — '* No man, having put his 



3l8 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 

hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom 
of God." 

And with that He passed on across the hills southward, 
away from the village, as though He heeded not Azriel 
any longer ; and His disciples followed Him. So the boy 
stood alone under the sycamore, and looked wistfully after 
them, with a very heavy weight suddenly fallen upon his 
heart, and a growing mist before his eyes. 

Then he was aware of a presence, and looking round, 
saw before him one whom he had noticed a few minutes 
ago among the Prophet's disciples, a venerable old man with 
a white beard, and a staff in his hand. And he looked 
very lovingly upon Azriel, and said, — " Child, why foUowest 
thou not ? " 

" Oh, sir," answered Azriel, thickly, for his fears and his 
longing stood in his throat, " I have a father and a mother 
at home, and a sister whom I love very, very dearly, and 
my uncle even now waits for me yonder on the cliff. 
Would it be dutiful and right in me, think you, to leave 
all these without one word of farewell, to follow this 
Stranger?" 

" Son," said the old man, looking earnestly upon Azriel, 
*' He whom thou callest a Stranger is surely our Lord and 
Master. So that thou mayest safely follow, knowing this, 
that there is nothing hid from Him, nor would He have thee 
forego thy farewells without due reason. For those who 
would be of the kingdom of God must wholly love their 
King ; nor cares He for their allegiance, who have other 
loves beside. But yesterday, the Lord called another to 
follow Him, whose father even then was carried forth for 
burial. And he, willing as thou art to obey the call, but 
loving still the thought of that other love, made answer, 
* Lord, let me first bury my father.* But the Master said 
to him, ' Let the dead bury the dead, but go thou and 
preach the kingdom of God.' What then, my son } — he 
left those drowsy mourners and their bier, and went after 
Him who called, as thou also must, if thou wouldst inherit 
eternal life.". 

Then Azriel mused a moment, and looked up, and took 
the old man's hand reverently, and went with him across the 
hill after the Prophet, all in silence, for he could trust him- 
self to speak no word. 

So the lights burned on in the valley, and the darkness 
fell softly about the land, and Caius waited in the darkness 
by the cliff side ; but Azriel had left all to follow Jesus 
of Nazareth. 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 319 



VII.— Darkness. 

Some time had gone by since that last scene upon the 
Samaritan hill ; time that had taught Azriel greatly ; time 
that had shewn him the glorious love of the All-Father; 
time that had put a new and beautiful light into his heart 
and his eyes — the light of knowledge, and the symbol of 
sonship in the kingdom of God. 

But oh ! it was a short, short time for all the strange and 
sorrowful things that had held their part in it ! For since 
that night a horrible darkness and dread had fallen upon 
the children of the kingdom, and they were scattered and 
dismayed, and their league of universal peace seemed sud- 
denly to have found an end, for the Prophet-King Himself, 
the Teacher of Galilee, had died, and the death He had died 
had been very significant and terrible. 

Not the death of a philosopher, though the world had seen 
philosophers die, and make noble deeds of their deaths that 
should be written in letters of gold upon the purple pages 
of story. 

But Jesus of Nazareth, hanging upon His cross, was not 
at all like Socrates drinking his hemlock poison. For the 
teaching of Socrates had been more than his death, and 
his death had only illustrated his teaching ; but with the 
Christ of Galilee, it seemed that His death was more than 
His teaching, for His teaching was consummated in His 
death. 

Therefore the Grecian philosopher died an example of 
patience, but this One died a sacrifice of love. 

And Azriel stood on the hill of Calvary, and beheld the 
terrible scene that seers and psalmists had sung about all 
through the long dim ages of the old world, and that since 
poets and preachers have made their grandest theme in 
these days of the new. 

He saw the Cross of the Christ stand up against the black 
sky and defy it, and above the quaking earth and resist it, 
because it was greater than heaven or earth. 

Then three sorrowful days went by, and the dead, silent 
body was laid in the darkness among the spices of the grave, 
like any other in the brotherhood of death ; and the disciples 
went sad at heart away, and the women wept, — ^and where 
was the kingdom of God and eternal life ? 

And now it was the first day of the week after all these 
strange, terrible things had happened, and Azriel sat alone 
in an upper room, meanly furnished and poor enough, in 
a lodging-house at Jerusalem. Sat alone, with his arms laid 
upon the little bare table, and his head bowed down upon 



320 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM, 

them, motionless and heavy, as though it had been stricken 
there. 

And upon a wooden bench by the window were his cloak 
and hat, lying as he had tossed them off when he came in 
the evening before from gleaning the same sorrowful tidings 
that all the world was telling and hearing then. 

And all the weary night through Azriel had prayed and 
struggled, and thought, and paced the long bare chamber up 
and down, and watched the dreary evening fall into the night, 
and the night grow into the dreary morning. Then he saw 
the red sunrise break up the eastern sky, and glow and glare 
upon the balconied roofs of the houses and upon the pinnacles 
of the Temple, until the whole city seemed a city of flame. 

And now the sun was half-way up in the blinding blue, 
but Azriel was wearied with thought, and watching, and 
prayer, and he sat dreamily down before the table and 
dropt his head upon his arms, and almost slept. Almost 
slept, for his mind was busy still. And in the visions that 
came to him in that troublous sleep, the boy read over again 
the story of his Master's Passion ; saw the swaying crowd, 
and the flashes of fasces and firebrands ; saw the cross on 
Calvary and Him who hung upon it, and the earth that 
trembled beneath the mysterious burden, and the darkened 
sun that fled from the sight of it And again he heard 
the yelling, and the cursing, and the wailing, and the Babel 
of tongues around the dying King, and felt again the sick- 
ness of horror, and the death -longing, and all the utter 
loneliness of soul. 

And anon he fancied himself back upon the Samaritan 
hill, and Mona with him, searching everywhere for his Master 
and never finding Him, until suddenly there came a voice 
as from a great height, calling, " Azriel ! Azriel !** 

And the sound of the voice was so clear that it awoke the 
boy from his sorrowful sleep, and he looked up and saw 
standing opposite to him in the full blaze of the sunlight 
— whom but Caius ! 

But oh! he was changed, this cunning Caius! The self 
that had eaten him up and disfigured his face was not 
there, the snake that had looked out of his grey eyes was 
not there, the wily smile that came and went continually 
was not there. For, in the stead of all these, there was 
that something else that had come upon Azriel, softening 
and making melody in his heart and in his face, even the 
knowledge of the kingdom of God. 

So Azriel rose up surprised when he saw his uncle, and 
gave him welcome as gladly as he could, wondering the 
while what tidings he brought, and whether Ephraim had 
sent to find him out and bring him back to his home. 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 32 1 

" But maybe," he thought, " my father holds me no more 
a son, for that I left him taking no farewell." 

So he waited in silence with his eyes cast down. 

And Caius stood before him and said, — "Azriel, I have 
something to tell you." 

So strange were the words, and so strange the voice that 
spoke them, and so strange the man himself, that Azriel 
thought, "My father is surely dead." But he said only, 
"Tell me, uncle." 

And Caius, never moving from his place, but watching 
Azriel always with sorrowful eyes, told him from beginning 
to end all that had passed at Lebonah before Azriel went 
away, and of Mona, and of his own evil designs towards 
her, and of his lying-in-wait upon the cliff side. And how 
he went home that night disappointed, to his own house, 
and found there a message calling him to Jerusalem. And 
how he had gone thither the next day in haste, bidding none 
farewell nor seeing Mona again, but leaving only a letter for 
Hyperia. And how he had stood by at the Passion of 
Jesus, and had seen the black sky and the quaking earth, 
and the veil of the Temple that was rent, and had heard 
one beside him cry out that this was indeed the Son of 
God ; and seeing, had himself believed. 

So Caius told him all, from beginning to end. 

And when it was told, Azriel hid his face in his robe 
and sat down again silent, for he thought only of Mona 
and of the words of the white-haired disciple upon the 
Samaritan hill. 

And what of Caius ? 

He came round where Azriel sat, amazed at him, and 
knelt before him there, mild and gentle like a woman, and 
caught the boy's hand in his, and said, " Azriel, Azriel, I am 
come to be forgiven." 

But Azriel's face was buried in his robe, and he said no 
word, nor moved to lift him up. 

So Caius went on, — *' I saw you first, on that last day of 
the Crucifixion, Azriel, among the crowd on the hill-side, for 
I knew not that you were in Jerusalem before, though your 
father sent to ask me tidings of you. So I heard how you 
were here, and came to see if I could find you, to tell you all 
these things ; and the people of the house brought me to 
your room, and coming in I found you asleep, but I woke 
you, Azriel, for I am come to be forgiven." 

But Azriel's face was hidden away from him in his robe, 
and he said no word, nor moved to lift him up. 

So Caius went on still, — "I am come to be forgiven, 
Azriel, for that I also have left all to follow the Lord Jesus." 

Then Azriel looked at him and answered, — " He is dead." 

Y 



322 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM, 



VIII.— Light. 

It was full day when Caius and Azriel went out together 
beyond the city, towards the sepulchre wherein the Lord lay. 

Scarce a word they said to each other as they went, for 
Caius was perplexed and humbled, and Azriel sick at heart 
for weariness and sorrowing and amaze. 

But before they came to the garden-doors they saw many 
women who had been disciples of Jesus standing there and 
talking among themselves. 

Some of them carried vases of spice and ointments for 
the anointing of the dead, and some, bundles of sweet herbs 
and flowers, and some had nothing ; but all looked earnest, 
and glad, and astonished. 

So Caius and Azriel drew nearer, and at the sound of their 
footsteps one of the younger women, who stood outside the 
group with a garland of white roses in her hand, turned her 
head about to see who they were that came. And the sweet 
face that turned upon them, and the eyes that looked into 
theirs, were the face and the eyes of Mona. 

Then Azriel cried out for wonder and joy, and ran to 
meet her, and she ran to meet him, and they fell upon each 
other's necks and kissed, and could not speak for gladness. 
As for Caius, he hung back, for he saw the garland of white 
roses, and he was ashamed and sad at the sight of it and 
of that sweet presence. 

But Azriel, after he had kissed Mona, turned towards him 
and took him by the hand, and said, — " Sister, here is my 
uncle Caius, who has told me all that passed between you 
both before I left my father's house ; and he is come to be 
forgiven, Mona, for that he also learned sometime to love 
the Lord Who is dead." 

Very sadly and falteringly these last words were spoken, 
and Azriel's voice went over them again more sadly still, 
as though they were a terrible lie that he would fain have 
some one hear and unsay : " The Lord Who is dead." 

But Mona, without a blush upon her innocent face, gave 
a joyful hand to each, and answered, — "All is forg^iveness, 
and peace, and love this day among the children of the 
kingdom, for this day, Azriel, the Lord is surely risen again 
from the dead I" 

Then the women all thronged about them, weeping for 
gladness, and told them that wondrous story that we all 
know so well, — how Mary Magdalen, coming early to the 
empty tomb, had been the first to learn the glorious news ; 
how she had carried it to other disciples of Jesus, and how 
after that they all came together to see the sight, and the 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 323 

great white angel that sat upon the sepulchre stone, with 
a countenance like lightning for brightness and beauty. 

And when they had made an end of their story, and had 
shewn Caius and Azriel the place where the Christ had lain, 
and the stone that the angel had rolled away, and were all 
silent for greatness of amazement and joy and wonder, Mona 
drew Azriel aside from the rest, and said, — ** I have a mes- 
sage to you, my brother." 

Then she put her hand into the bosom of her dress, and 
took out of it a sealed letter, and, giving it to him, " Azriel," 
she said, "soon after you left your home, and your father 
and I were very sad -hearted and anxious to know what 
had become of you, the lady Hyperia began to persuade 
him that you were certainly dead by some evil mischance. 
And so did she assure and advise him, that your father, 
who you well know loves her greatly, yielded his mind to 
hers, and left Lebonah to go with her and their little son 
to Rome." 

"To Rome, Mona!" cried Azriel, with much wonder and 
not a little sadness; but Mona went on still, — "'For,' said 
the lady Hyperia to your father, * it were better surely for 
your peace to leave this lonely place, where day by day and 
year by year you will be reminded of the son you have lost. 
Rather go hence to the glorious city of the seven hills,' — 
so she spoke, brother, — *and learn among stranger scenes 
and wiser philosophy to forget your new sorrow.' And more 
than this, Azriel, for I think your stepmother wearied of the 
village, and the silence and the country life, and had a mind 
for her own land again. So they went, Azriel, but I would 
not go, for I could not leave the country of God and the 
people whom I love and among whom I was born, for a city 
of strangers and infidels ; nor, I think, did the lady Hyperia 
care to have me ; * and besides,' said I, ' what am I now to 
them, since my mother is dead and Azriel lost?' Neither, 
I think, does Caius, whom now I hold a brother in the king- 
dom of God, know of all these things, for he went away sud- 
denly on the self-same night with you, and left only a letter, 
saying he was gone to Jerusalem. So your father sent a 
messenger to him there, asking tidings of you, for we thought 
you might be with him ; but he had no news to give, nor 
knew anything of you. And because the lady Hyperia spoke 
much of her brother's coming himself to Rome this next 
month by order of the Emperor, having business there, your 
father did not care to send again to him to tell him of their 
departure, since they should meet so soon in Rome, but bade 
me give him warning when I should be come hither. But 
I dared not go to him then, Azriel, — though I could not tell 
your father why, — not knowing Caius was become a disciple 

Y 2 



324 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 

of the Lord. And so they went, but I stayed behind with 
a cousin of mine, who would have me to go and live with her, 
for she is a widow, and was alone. And on the day I parted 
from your father, he gave me this packet for you, that if 
ever I should meet with you I should put it in your hands. 
* For,* said he, ' my son may yet be alive, and if he be, God 
will send him back to me in peace.* Then they sailed, Azriel, 
and I came with my cousin to live here at Jerusalem, where 
I have seen all the wonderful things that have come to pass 
concerning the Lord Jesus, Who is gloriously risen this day 
from the dead !** 

Then Azriel opened the packet that Mona had given him, 
and read all that Ephraim had written, and how he was re- 
luctant indeed and unwilling to leave Lebonah, but that 
Hyperia would have it so, and longed for her own city and 
her country people. And how he desired Azriel, if he yet 
loved his father, to follow him to Rome with Caius, who 
would be recalled thither in a little while ; or if Caius were 
already gone before Mona could find her brother, that he 
should sail alone as soon as might be. And then came a 
farewell and a blessing, and " God of Israel keep thee, my 
dear son!" and that was all. 

Then Azriel kissed the letter and put it in his bosom, and 
his eyes glistened as he looked again at Mona, and said, — 
" Come home with me, sister mine, and stay till the evening, 
and we will call my uncle and talk over these things to- 
gether." 

So Mona ran back to her cousin, who stood talking among 
the holy women, and told her that she had found her brother, 
and was going home to his house until the evening ; and 
they called Caius again, and the three went on their way 
homeward. 

And as they went, the boy told his uncle the news of 
Ephraim's departure, and how he had said that Caius would 
presently be in Rome, and that he should bring Azriel thither 
with him. And his heart leaped in his throat for the thought 
of seeing his father again, and bringing him the tidings of 
the kingdom of God, and of Him Who was risen from the 
dead. But Mona was something sorry because she should 
part from Azriel. 

Then Caius said, — " It is quite true, my dear boy, that 
I sail so soon for Rome ; and we will surely go together 
if the King hath no need of us here : for remember, Azriel, 
how He said, ' Leave all, and follow Me.* ** 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 325 



IX.— And the Last. 

In that same upper chamber, some fifty days after, Azriel 
and Mona sat talking very earnestly and gravely ; and their 
talk was all of their King, and of His rising from the dead, 
and of His glorious ascension into heaven ; and their faces 
kindled as they spoke together of all the things they had 
seen and believed. 

And better than all else Azriel loved to tell over and over 
again, like something always new and sweet, and still Mona 
never wearied of hearing, one beautiful and wondrous story, 
— stranger than which, the world from age to age has never 
heard. For not many days since, there had been an assembly 
of the brethren, five hundred in all, and Azriel had been 
among them. And while they held converse together of 
their Lord's Passion and Resurrection, and of all the marvels 
of the Cross, and some were silent, and some prayerful, and 
some doubting, there came in the midst a glorious Presence, 
gathering itself out of the air, and growing like a mist of 
golden flame, with radiant eyes and stern sweet face — even 
the presence of the Lord Jesus Himself. 

And Azriel told how the Lord had spoken, and they had 
all heard His voice like the voice of God, breathing His peace 
upon the children of His kingdom ; and how He bade them 
go forth into all lands and preach to all men of His Name 
and His wondrous works, and the gift of eternal life that was 
given to the world through Him. 

" And now," said Azriel, ** He is gone to sit at the right 
hand of the All-father, waiting and watchful, until the last 
great day shall break up the world-wide skies, and all vainer 
schools and philosophies are swept away like shadows before 
the eastern sun." 

" And until then," said Mona, " the children of the king- 
dom, like faithful subjects whose King is absent for a while, 
must keep His laws and love His Name, and watch for His 
coming day by day, for none do know when His coming 
may be. 

" But then shall they all have fulness of joy in His pre- 
sence, sitting at His feet and drinking in His love, and look- 
ing for evermore upon His face that shall be as the sun in 
his strength and beauty ; for the kingdom of God is this, 
even to dwell in perfect peace." 

And her bosom heaved beneath its white robes, and her 
sweet eyes dilated while she spoke as though already she 
beheld the golden Jerusalem of the Hereafter, and the great 
white throne of the glorious King. So they sat together 



326 THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 

silent and still for a time, and Azriel turned his head towards 
the open casement, and logked upon the city lying stretched 
below him, far out and around, all in the blaze of the mellow 
noontide ; and upward at the blue level heavens, where con- 
tinually the light clouds came and went like the white-robed 
armies of the King. 

And Mona sat at his feet with her hand clasped in his, and 
the gaze of her brown eyes at rest upon his face, and one 
prayer in the thoughts of both, — that prayer of the Church 
through every year of her waiting love : — " Even so, come, 
Lord Jesus!" 

So they sat until there was a third presence in the long 
bare room, and Caius came and touched his nephew softly 
upon the arm, who turned and met in the grey eyes such 
a look of earnest pity, that it stopped the word of welcome 
on his lips. 

But Mona saw it not, for she had risen quickly from her 
place on the floor to make room for Caius, that he might 
come and sit beside her brother. Then Azriel, seeing he 
had something to tell, sat silently with his eyes cast down, 
expecting, until his uncle spoke. 

" Azriel." 

Then a pause again, as though the message he had to give 
would not come. And he drew his nephew's head down on 
his own neck, as though he had been a little child, and laid 
his hand upon the fair curly hair, and Mona saw that the 
hand trembled as it lay there. 

" Azriel," he said again presently ; " I go to Joppa to- 
morrow to join my ship, and you, I think, had prepared to 
sail with me. Was it not so.?" 

" Yes, with you, uncle," answered Azriel, lifting up his 
head in some surprise. " Why not i it is my father^s bid- 
ding." 

Then Caius took him by both hands, and looking him full 
in the face, — " You will have to leave Mona, Azriel," he said. 

"I know it, uncle; but Mona will stay with her cousin, 
and I shall go to tell my father of the kingdom of God and 
everlasting life, even as the Master bade us that we, who 
have followed Him, should go to all lands and preach the 
tidings of peace," 

But Mona, standing behind her brother, and watching 
Caius as these words were spoken, saw a strange look upon 
his face that made her heart beat fast and her eyes droop, 
for she knew that somehow there was ill news to be told. 

And Caius answered, very slowly, "But now, Azriel, I think 
you had better stay with your sister, for you are still but 
a boy, and where would you go, and what would you do in 
that great city of foreigners ? For I could not be with you, 



THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM. 327 

having mine own business to do, and you would be alone 
from day to day, all alone^ Azriel." 

Then the brown eyes drooped lower, and Mona's hand 
found AzrieFs and laid itself upon it, lovingly and firm, as 
though it said, " Now we will never part, my brother." 

And Caius w6nt on slowly, and every word was like the 
stroke of a bell. 

** For, Azriel, farewells are spoken, and friends part, and 
ships sink at sea sometimes, and dear ones are lost ; but the 
Master is with us alway, even unto the end of the world." 

Faster still and tighter the small hand held AzrieFs, and 
Caius pressed his own together and sighed, — half a sigh it 
was and half a groan, fof the man had a sorrow too at heart, 
having hoped to win his sister Hyperia to the faith of Christ, 
when he should meet her in Rome. 

"Then, uncle, the ship in which my father sailed, went 
down at sea V^ 

Azriel spoke very steadily, and his eyes were wide and 
dry. 

" Went down at sea, my boy," said Caius. 

"And all were lost .?" 

Still the voice was steady, and still the eyes were wide 
and dry. 

" And all were lost, Azriel, save those men only who came 
hither yesterday to bring the news." 

" Sister," said Azriel, turning to the sweet face beside him, 
'* henceforth we will live together." 

Then he bowed his head upon her bosom and wept bit- 
terly and long. 

And after that they parted. Caius went to Rome, one of 
the first who carried thither the glorious story of the Cross ; 
and Azriel and Mona abode still in Jerusalem, until the 
promise of the Lord came, and the Holy Ghost fell on them 
that believed. 

So these three lived, and laboured, and died, as many 
since have done for the Master's sake, and are gone hence 
to the rest of the saints until the day break and the shadows 
flee away, and the Christ return to reign among the children 
of His kingdom. 



r, I 



I 



J 



' 



\' 






SYMPHORIAN. 

A STORY OF THE SECOND CENTIJRY. 




CHAPTER I. 

" For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." — Phil. i. 21. 

|ARCUS AURELIUS, emperor of Rome between the 
years 161 — 180, has been made known to us by his- 
torians as a man of noble character, refined senti- 
ment, and exalted intellect, — a true lover of philosophy. 
But his conduct towards his Christian subjects can never be 
excused. He certainly sanctioned, even if he did not com- 
mand, the perpetration of many gross cruelties upon them, 
and during his reign, one of the most violent persecutions 
ever known raged against Christianity, in the Roman do- 
minions of Gaul. 

The incident related in these pages, however little claim 
it may otherwise deserve to have on the reader's attention, 
yet bears with it this one recommendation, — it is perfectly 
true. And so, if after hearing that recommendation, my 
friend the reader may wish to know what I have to tell 
him, I must beg him to transport himself back in imagina- 
tion to the year 179 A.D. and fancy himself walking with 
me through the streets of Boxum, (now Autun,) in Gaul. 

It is a beautiful morning in the month of August, and 
though the hour is yet early, the roads are all astir with 
people. Let us stand awhile beneath the portico of this 
house, and watch the busy throng of citizens hurrying up 
and down the pavement on their various errands. See, here 
comes the elegant chariot of Heraclus, the governor or consul 
of the province. He is hurrying on, probably to attend some 
court of justice, for during his residence in Boxum he often 
acts the magistrate as well as the governor. We have no 
time to look at him, for. he drives with all the speed that 
the importance of his duties and position can urge, and his 
horses are scarcely less impatient than their master. 

But who are these two young men who are now approach- 
ing us, so earnestly engaged in conversation? If we may 
judge by the disparity of their dress and bearing, they 
should be of unequal rank, and it is strange to see them 
thus walking together. The elder of the two, — he with th^ 



330 SYMPHORIAN. 

bright sunny curls and blue eyes, is Symphorian, a youth 
of twenty, the only son of the Decurion Faustus, one of 
the principal men of the town, and formerly its Duumvir, 
or prefect. His poorer companion is a fatherless boy of 
sixteen, named Victor, of whom Symphorian, in his tender- 
heartedness has made a proteg6. Let us follow them if 
you will, reader, and listen to their conversation. 

" Indeed, my dear friend," says Symphorian's kindly voice, 
" I am very sorry to hear such ill news. But don't be 
downhearted, my boy, come home with me now, and you 
shall have a jar of wine to carry to your mother. And 
look you, this afternoon I will run round myself to your 
house, and see how she fares, and what is most needful 
for her. You know, Victor," he adds with a bright smile, 
"everybody says I am a capital physician, and the sick 
seem always the better for my visits." 

" It is your goodness of heart, my kind Symphorian, that 
makes you beloved everywhere," answers the boy, looking 
up in his companion's face with grateful eyes ; " there is no 
one, however poor or sick, but is cheerful and happy in 
your presence. God bless you for it, — my mother and I 
owe all we have to you !" 

** Hush, hush, my dear boy, you must not flatter me so, 
or I shall grow vain and conceited, and then you see you 
will run the risk of spoiling the fine character you admire. 
What a pity that would be,— wouldn't it, Victor.?" 

" You are laughing at me, Symphorian, as you always do, 
when I try to thank you for your goodness to us. But you 
know how dearly I love you for it, and how very unlike 
flattery is my praise of you !" 

" That I do indeed, dear Victor ! God bless you for your 
love, — it makes me very happy. But look, — in the earnest- 
ness of our talking, we had wellnigh passed my father's 
house. Come in, — I see him watching for me." 

As Symphorian speaks, the two youths enter beneath the 
white marble portico of a house whose stately structure and 
adornings bespeak the wealth and opulence of its owner. 
That individual, in the person of a tall handsome man, 
now makes his appearance in the atrium, or inner court 
of the building. We notice at first sight a remarkable air 
of stateliness and military dignity in his bearing, but this 
altogether disappears when he perceives Symphorian, and 
the natural sternness of his countenance gives place to a 
smile of paternal pride and fondness, as the young man 
quitting his friend's side, runs forward to meet his father. 

"Father!" he cries breathlessly, '*I have brought Victor 
home with me, his mother is ill, and I have promised to 
give him some wine for her. Where is my mother ?" 



SYMPHORIAN, 33 1 

"In here, my dear boy. Victor, you had better follow 
him. I am sorry to hear of your mother's illness, but if 
we can do anything for her, do not hesitate to ask it." 
And with a kindly smile Faustus passes on, and Symphorian 
and his proteg^ enter the apartment where Emilia, the mother 
of the former, is sitting at her embroidery-frame. 

" Dearest mother," says Symphorian, running impetuously 
up to her, and speaking with a kiss, "here is Victor! His 
mother is ill, and I told him, if he would come home with 
me, you would give him a flask of wine to take her." 

" Willingly, my dear son," she answers ; " call Irene hither, 
and bid her fetch you some, Victor, my boy, while he is 
gone, come, sit down on this sofa and let me hear about 
your mother. Is she very ill ?" 

" Not so ill, dear lady, but that by care and God's blessing, 
I hope soon to see her well again. The tumults and riot 
in the town of late, have sorely alarmed and terrified her. 
She loves me dearly, you know, and her fears for me, lest 
during my absence from her at my work, I should fall into 
the hands of the mob, or some evil befall me on account of 
my faith — have obliged me for these last two days to leave 
my labour, and remain at home with her. Three days since, 
the people set fire to five houses in our street, because they 
had heard that Christians lodged there ; and several of the 
faithful died in the flames; others were murdered as they 
attempted to escape. We heard the hootings and yells 
of the crowd, and the crash of the burning houses every 
minute. I would fain have gone to see if I could not save 
some of the victims, but my poor sick mother clung to me 
in an agony of terror, and implored me to stay, trembling 
all the time so violently, that I dared not leave her alone. 

"Then again, the night before last, a Christian traveller 
was struck down, almost at our door, by some cowardly 
soldiers, and they had wellnigh made an end of him, but 
by good luck, a pious woman took him into her house, 
and tended him, and I hear he is in a fair way to recover. 
But all these troubles, dear lady, distress my poor mother 
sadly, and she is full of apprehension, that I may be the 
next victim." 

" I hope not, my dear boy," answers Emilia, with a deep 
sigh ; " but these things, you know, are not at man's disposal. 
God grant you may yet be spared a long time to brighten 
and cheer her old age ; but if not, Victor, remember all things 
work together for the good of those who love Christ. But 
here comes Symphorian with the wine. How will you carry 
it ? Ah, wrap it up so in your mantle. Now, good-bye, my 
child. God bless you, and make your mother well again !" 

" Good-bye, Victor," cries Symphorian, as the boy hugging 




332 SYMPHORIAN. 

his treasure up closely to his bosom turns to depart, " I will 
not fail to go this afternoon and see you* No thanks, — ^we 
have had enough already." 

" So, Symphorian," says his mother, as the former having 
divested himself of his cap and cloak, re-enters the apartment 
and seats himself at her feet, — " you are off again this after- 
noon ! You do well, it is thus you have become a sunbeam 
in everybody's house!" As she speaks, resting her hand 
upon the young man's golden hair, and gazing lovingly 
into the depths of his upturned eyes, her husband stands 
beside her. 

*'Ay, ay, Emilia," he says, "God is very gracious to us 
in giving us such a son. I remember well, how the good 
priest Benignus, long since gone to his rest, when he had 
baptized you, Symphorian, gave you back into your mother's 
arms with these words, — * My children, this boy will be more 
of an honour to your house, than now you wot of.'" He 
lingers on the words as if they were sweet music to him, 
and Symphorian lifting his eyes to his father's says,— r" They 
murdered him, — that holy priest, — did they not, father.^" 

" Yes, my son, he died a martyr at Alesia % but not before 
he had borne a noble testimony to the faith of Christ Your 
aunt, — my sister Leonilla, — carried him to his grave. You 
recollect, Emilia, how on the day we parted from the good 
priest, when he went at my desire to Andematunum ** to 
baptize Leonilla's three grandsons, as he stood with us on 
the threshold, he laid his hand in mine and said, *Son 
Faustus, farewell ; I thank you for your hospitality. I part 
from you as a wanderer and pilgrim, — you yourself are no 
more. When next I salute you, it will be as a fellow-citizen.' 
How prophetic the old man's words were ! I did not think 
then, that I looked on his face for the last time ! Ah, he is 
now with the holy bishop Polycarp, whose disciple he was, 
and of whom I have often heard him speak. Nobly Indeed 
he followed in his master's footsteps, and nobly, like him, 
he drank the bitter cup of martyrdom ! And now he is 
gone to join that master in the rest of the blessed in Paradise, 
until the last great day shall call them to receive at the hands 
of their common Lord, the white robe of righteousness, and 
the golden crown of victory, which shall be given to them 
who are slain for the witness of Jesus." 

"Ah, dearest father!" cries Symphorian, the tears glisten- 
ing in his earnest eyes, "would that I too, might be one of 
that glorious company ! Do you not remember last year 
when you took me with you to Sidolancum ®, to attend the 
burial of the martyred priest Andochus, and the deacon 

• Dijon. ** Langres. ' Saulien. 



SYMPHORIAN. 333 

Thyrsian, how peaceful and calm they looked in their death- 
sleep, though they had died in torture ? Ever since that day 
I have been longing to be like them." 

Faustus gazes long into his son's face as Symphorian 
ceases speaking. What are his thoughts.^ Is he repeating 
to himself the prophetic words of the priest Benignus, with 
a new presentiment as to their meaning, — "This thy son 
shall be an honour to thine house." Perhaps it is so. He 
lays his hand tremblingly on Symphorian's shoulder : " My 
boy," he says, and his voice falters as he speaks, " pray God 
it be not yet I could not bear to lose you, my son, my 
only son!" 



CHAPTER II. 

" In the world ye shall have tribulation : but be of good cheer ; 
I have overcome the world." — S. John xvi. 33. 

The red autumnal sun is sinking fast behind the chain 
of hills on the western side of Boxum, and a rich flood of 
mellow light streams down into the town below, and kindles, 
like flame upon the marble tops of its many colonnades 
and basilicas, until they glow beneath the ruddy gleam like 
molten gold. 

The business of the day is over now, and there are scarcely 
any people to be seen in the streets, except perhaps a few 
idlers, who, with no particular object in view, have chosen 
the last few hours before sunset to loiter away their time 
in a leisurely stroll through the town. 

But see ; here comes one at least, whose quick lively step ' 
and animated countenance proclaim at once that he is no 
idler. It is Symphorian, returning from his charitable mis- 
sion to Victor's widowed mother, and singing blithely to 
himself as he hastens along ; listen, we can catch the words 
of his song : — 

" Adeste, cantate Domino canticum novum, cantate Domino totus orbis 

terrarum ! 
Omnes enim caeterarum nationum dii deastri sunt ; at Jova coelorum 

conditoF est. 
Jova mea potentia atque cantus, mihi saluti fuit. 
Ad Te Domine, animum meum attoUo, Tibi, mi Deus, confido, effice 

ne frustrer, ne mihi insultent hostes mei. 
In Te Domine confido ; non metuo, ne quid mihi faciant homines !" 

Ah, what a heavenly glow of light illumined his face just 
then ! It was the gleam of the setting sun streaming down 
upon him between the carved pillars of the marble colonnade. 
It has faded now, for Symphorian has turned the corner of 



^ 



334 SYMPHORIAN. 

the street, and a high dead wall interposes itself between 
him and the sunlight. Hark! what is that sound that 
makes him pause so suddenly, and sends the hot blood 
rushing up like fire into his forehead ? 

It is a sound like the surging of a great multitude, — ^the 
trampling of many feet, — the murmur of many voices. He 
stands a moment and listens, and then drawing his mantle 
closely around him, he hastens onward repeating to himself, 
as though the words inspired him with fresh courage, — "In 
Te, Domine, speravi, — I will not fear what man doeth 
unto me!" 

They are coming nearer now ; he can see lights glean^ing 
at the other end of the street, and a dense crowd approaching 
him. There is the terrible shout again, that so startled him 
before ; he can hear it more distinctly now : — " Hail to the 
great goddess! the Magna Mater, — hail to the mother of 
the gods!" 

Onward they come, nearer and nearer, with wild yells 
and cries, and the noise of drums and cymbals mingling 
in the tumult. The red glare of a hundred torches throws 
a lurid blaze of light down the street, and reveals a wild 
disorderly throng of people, surrounding with frantic gestures 
and dances a number of men habited in the garb of heathen 
priests, and bearing aloft the colossal statue of a majestic 
woman, crowned with a circlet of towers, and holding a 
golden disk or orb in her right hand. It is the procession 
of the goddess Cybele, more commonly known among the 
Romans by the name of the Magna Mater, or Great Mother. 

Already some of the foremost stragglers of the crowd 
have come up with Symphorian, and the young man well 
knows that if they espy him, he will be pressed to join in 
their impious carnival. Unwilling therefore to expose him- 
self to danger by any unnecessary temerity, he steps hastily 
aside into a recess of the wall behind him, in the hope that 
he may remain there, unperceived, until the procession shall 
have passed by. But he has scarce waited a moment before 
his anticipations of security are suddenly disappointed by 
a loud exclamation close beside him : " Why, Marcellus, 
whom have we here, lurking like a shadow behind this 
broken pillar } Out, youngster ! and cry with us, * Hail to 
the great goddess, the Magna Mater!'" 

The heavy hand of the speaker is laid roughly upon 
Symphorian's shoulder, and the youth presently finds himself 
in the centre of a group of coarse-looking men, whose strange 
disorderly apparel, and wild unearthly countenances, give 
them more of the appearance of savage revellers, than of 
religious devotees. 

*• What, silent i dumb ? Prithee, find us a tongue presently, 



SYMPHORIAN. 33$ 

young fellow, and tell us what thou dost, hiding thyself away 
like an owl in the darkness !" 

"Nay, leave him alone, Maximan," says another kindlier 
voice behind him, "you handle him too roughly. Fll answer 
for it he's an honest townsman, and is only waiting to join 
in the procession ; is it not so, my boy ?" 

Symphorian throws a hasty glance at the motley group 
that has gathered round him, and then at the fast-approach- 
ing multitude. "Let me go, I pray you, townsmen," he 
answers, "for I cannot join in your procession to-night. 
I am in haste to return home, before sunsetting, and I must 
be gone." 

" Not so fast, young fellow, if it please you," retorts the 
first speaker, darting forward and thrusting himself in Sym- 
phorian's path ; " we shan't let you off so easily, I promise 
you ! No one meets us to-night, who does not join us ; that's 
the rule, isn't it, Marcellus?- Head of Jupiter! we'll take no 
excuses!" 

"Pooh, pooh! Maximan, let him go! How perverse you 
are ! What can it matter to us if one sorry stripling refuses 
to join ? Let the boy go if he wants to go ; do you hear ?" 

"Oh ay, Quadratus! but lend me your ear a moment, 
man ; look you ; for if I guess rightly, this same harmless 
stripling is nothing less than" — and here he sinks his voice 
to a whisper, and eyes his companion with a sagacious leer. 

" Impossible, Maximan !" exclaims the other, starting back 
as if horror-stricken ; " it cannot be, surely ; he looks much 
too innocent for that. Prithee, tell us, young sir," he con- 
tinues, snatching at Symphorian's cloak, "who art thou ?** 

"The son of the Decurion Faustus," answers the other, 
mildly, and as he utters the words, his interrogator casts 
a look of triumph upon Maximan. " I told you you were 
mistaken," he cries ; " now will you let him go .^" 

" Stop a minute, Quadratus ; I am by no means so satis- 
fied," replies Maximan hastily; "my suspicions are not 
lulled so soon as you fancy! Hark you, my friend," he 
cries, turning abruptly to his prisoner, "art thou not a 
Christian?" 

A sudden pause and stillness falls upon the noisy throng 
at the words, and a crimson flush, faint indeed and momen- 
tary, rises to Symphorian's forehead, as he marks the silence 
around him. But he does not hesitate, nor does his voice 
tremble as he gives his answer. Hardly is that answer 
given, than the hush of expectancy is broken by wild yells 
of execration, speedily echoed by the multitude now close 
at hand. The air rocks and shivers with tumultuous cries, 
— " A Christian ! an infidel ! Away with the godless Chris- 
tian ! Christianos ad caedes ! Christianos ad leones !" 



336 SYMPHORIAN. 

Like one in a dream, Symphorian stands silent and calm 
in the midst of that savage crowd. Dimly he beholds, as 
in a vision, the sea of angry faces around him glaring upon 
him with wild fiery eyes. Dimly, as in a dream, he sees 
a dozen uplifted blades flash and quiver above his head in 
the red torchlight, yet he neither shrieks nor quails at the 
sight ; he stands alone and unmoved, like a solitary rock in 
tempestuous waters ; he stands, as a hundred years before 
the first martyr Stephen stood, calm and steadfast, in the 
midst of his murderers, bearing the face of an angel in the 
very presence of death. 

But suddenly, just at the very moment that seems des- 
tined to be Symphorian's last, the wary Marcellus bursts 
forward from the throng around him, and interposes his tall 
manly form between his enraged companions and their un- 
shrinking victim. 

"Stand back, you fools, you idiots!" he almost shrieks. 
"Here is no mere swineherd whom you may cut in pieces 
in the streets, and hear no more about it ! Patrician blood 
is not so cheap at Boxum ! What if the boy be a Christian ? 
have you not heard but just now that he is the son of a 
Decurion ?'* 

" He speaks truly enough, and wisely, townsmen," answers 
a hoarse voice in the crowd. "But what then, Marcellus, 
shall we let him go ?'' 

" No ! no ! " roar a hundred voices ; " the gods forbid ! 
Away with the infidel ! Christianos ad leones ! To death 
with the impious!" 

" Carry him to the governor, townsmen," suggested another 
voice, when the clamour had subsided. "Ay, ay! take him 
to Heraclus!" they burst out again in chorus: "Away with 
him to the dungeon ; there is no liberty for Christians." 

"Be it so then, my friends," rejoined Marcellus, stepping 
coolly backward from Symphorian's side ; ** this, methinks, 
is a much wiser plan than stabbing him down unheard in 
the public ways. But be speedy on your errand, the sun 
is almost set." 

And Symphorian is led forward, an unresisting prisoner, 
and the crowd sweeps on again up the street, and again 
the clash of cymbals, the roar of drums, and the burden 
of that hateful cry burst forth like thunder upon the calm 
evening air, — " Hail to the great goddess ! hail to the Magna 

Mater, the Mother of the Gods !" 

******* * 

" I marvel, Emilia, that Symphorian tarries so long ; the 
sun hath been set this hour, and he promised us to return 
home before evening. I hope no mischance hath befallen 
the boy." 



SYMPHORIAN. 33/ 

So, about an hour later, spoke the Decurion Faustus to 
his wife, as he stood beside an arched window facing the 
street, and with anxious countenance watched the grey night 
falling like a thick veil over the town. 

Emilia did not answer. She sat silently, leaning back 
upon a couch at the other side of the apartment, her hands 
clasped firmly together, and her eyes fixed intently upon 
her husband, as though she were trying to read his thoughts. 
He turned away from the window, and met her glance. It 
did not move from his face, nor did the strange expression 
of her face alter, as they looked at each other. 

"Emilia," he said, "tell me what you are thinking of." 

*' I was wondering," she answered slowly, and still without 
moving her eyes from his, "what those shouts could mean, 
that we heard in the streets more than an hour ago." 

There was silence, and Faustus turned again to the window. 
After watching there in vain a few minutes, he exclaimed 
anxiously, " I can wait no longer, Emilia ! I am going out, to 
see if I can hear any news of him, or perchance meet him." 

But as he crossed the room, he suddenly paused, and his 
wife following the direction of his glance, looked towards 
the doorway, and saw a figure standing there in the gather- 
ing darkness. She uttered a cry, and rose hastily from 
her seat 

"Victor!" 

The boy came forward into the room, and as the light 
from the window fell upon his face, Faustus almost started 
at its unnatural paleness. Emilia saw it too, and re-seating 
herself, she pointed to a vacant place beside her on the sofa, 
and held out her hand kindly to Victor. He sat down with- 
out speaking a word, leant his head upon her shoulder, and 
burst into a great sob. Faustus stood opposite and looked 
at them both, — the fair-haired lady, and the weeping boy, 
the black curls hanging so helplessly down over the folds 
of her white robe, and the brown hand clasped so lovingly 
within her own. Long time they sat together like this, and 
still Faustus stood silent, watching them, with a strange in- 
comprehensible feeling at heart, — a feeling which at one time 
or another every one experiences, — that all that was then 
happening, was not new to him, but had already happened 
at some indefinite time gone by, and that he knew what 
was yet to happen. 

It was Victor who first broke the silence. 

"I heard the noise in the street," he sobbed, still hiding 
his face on Emilia's shoulder, "and I ran out to see what 
it meant. I heard shouting and music, and then I saw the 
glare of torchlights, and a great crowd of people passing 
along through the streets, and I followed them. When 
they came to the governor's house, some of the crowd 

z 




I 



338 SYMPHORIAN. 

stopped, but the greater part went on, and then I saw 
it was the procession of the ' Magna Mater/ I did not 
care to follow that, so I went with the others into the 
governor s court. Then I heard some one say it was a 
seditious fanatic, and another, that it was a Christian whom 
they had brought there ; and I stood by one of the pillars 
in the hall and waited to see the end. Then Heraclus 
came in, and several of his officers with him, and the people 
fell back, and I saw the prisoner; — O, Lady Emilia, it was 
Symphorian !" 

Faustus staggered back upon a couch, and covered his 
face with his hands. 

"I knew it, — I knew it," he groaned. **0, Symphorian! 
my son ! my only son !" 

Then there fell c^ hush and stillness upon the room, — 
a silence that had something terrible in it, like the shadow 
of a great dark cloud. Presently Emilia spoke. 

" Go on, my child," she said in a low tone, as she pressed 
the hand still clasped in hers, "what followed .?" 

"I cannot well remember," he answered, *' for I could do 
nothing but look at Symphorian, and I felt too miserable 
and sick at heart to note what came next ; but I think some 
one stood forward and accused him of sedition, and of con- 
tempt of the gods and the imperial edict. And then I think 
the governor spoke to Symphorian, and asked him some- 
thing, but I remember nothing distinctly, for the whole court 
seemed to rock and swim around me. At last I heard 
Symphorian's voice speaking, and that was so sweet and 
familiar, that it brought new life to me, and I looked out 
from behind the pillar, and heard every word. ' It is true,' 
he said, * I am a Christian, nor will I ever acknowledge 
any other God, than the God who reigns eternally in the 
heavens. And as for the idol that you would have me 
adore, I am readier rather to break it in pieces with a 
hammer than to bend my knee before it*.' Then Heraclus 
turned to one of the officers and asked him a question, but 
I do not know what it was. I heard something said about 
* one of the noblest families in the province,* and then some- 
thing else about the edict. And after that the officer 
brought out a great parchment, with seals upon it, and 
he stood forward, and read the Emperors commands that 
all who refused to obey him and the laws, and to acknow- 
ledge the gods of Rome, should be punished with death 
as traitors and seditious persons. When that was done, 

* Tillemont's Histaire EccUsiastique. Symphorian's answers to Heraclus, dunog 
liis trial, and his mother's subsequent exhortation to her son on his way to exe- 
cution, as here given, are not imaginary, but are actual translations of the 
original, in the Acts of SS. Benignus, Andochus, and Symphorian. Vide the 
Martyrologies of S. Jerome, Bede, Ado, BolUndus, Usuard. S. Gregory of 
Tours, and others. 



SYMPHORIAN. 339 

the governor told Symphorian that if he did not choose 
to renounce his Christianity, or at least to conform to the 
worship of the gods, he must resolve to die, for that the 
Emperor must be obeyed. He did not seem very angry, 
though he said this, and I thought he looked at Symphorian 
as if he pitied him. For a long time he tried to make 
him yield to the edict, and give up his faith, and he said 
a great deal about his youth and friends, and the sweetness 
of life, and obedience to superiors. And then he talked 
about prison and chains, and tortures and death, and much 
more besides, though I did not hear it all, for I was watch- 
ing Symphorian and longing for him to speak again. And 
presently I heard him answer Heraclus that ' no man putting 
his hand to the plough, and looking back, would be fit for 
the kingdom of God.' Then the governor called to some 
of the officers, and they brought chains, and put them upon 
Symphorian's hands, and led him away, and I heard them 
say he was taken to prison. Heraclus rose from his seat 
after that, and told the people that he would examine Sym- 
phorian there again in three days' time, and give sentence. 
Then he left the hall, and the people began to move, and 
I came out into the street before them and ran here to 
tell you all.'* 

There was another pause. Faustus neither moved nor 
spoke, and Emilia, gently drawing her hand away from 
Victor's as he lifted his head from her shoulder, rose, crossed 
the room noiselessly, and glided through the doorway into 
an adjoining chamber, whence she presently returned bearing 
in her hand a silver goblet filled with wine. 

"Drink this, my child," she said, stooping tenderly over 
him, and gently smoothing back the dark curls that hung 
in disordered masses about his forehead, while she placed 
the cup in his hand, — " drink this, you need it, Victor. And 
now," she added, as he rose and placed the empty goblet 
upon a table beside him, "you must go home to your 
mother, it is nearly dark, but the streets are quiet now, 
and you have not far to go. Farewell, my dear boy, and 
God be with you." 

Victor gratefully kissed the hand she held out to him, 
and without trusting himself to speak another word, he 
raised his dark expressive eyes to her beautiful face, and 
turned away. The heavy silken folds of the curtain at the 
doorway rustled as he passed out, and the hall door closed 
behind him with a dull echoing clang, his retreating foot- 
steps sounded for a minute upon the pavement of the street, 
— then all was silent, and Faustus and Emilia were alone. 



Z 2 



340 SYMPHORIAN. 



CHAPTER III. 

" These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed 
their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." — Rev. vii. 14. 

Two days had passed away since the events described in 
the last chapter took place, and another bright autumnal 
morning poured down its flood of warm sunshine into the 
busy town of Boxum. 

It was just about the hour of noon, and a crowd of people 
had collected in the outer court of the governor's house, for 
Heraclus that day intended to resume Symphorian's trial, 
and pass sentence upon him. The greater part of the 
spectators were ranged round the hall in a loose semi- 
circle, a few less interested sauntered about in groups near 
the entrance, beguiling the time and amusing themselves 
with the conversation of the porters or door-keepers. Op- 
posite the doorway, and under the carved architrave of 
a granite column, stood side by side, Faustus and Victor. 
The tail, military form of the decurion was shrouded and 
almost concealed beneath the folds of a thick, hooded cloak, 
thrown instead of a toga over the tunic of his dress. His 
arms were folded together on his breast, and his eyes were 
anxiously directed towards the entrance of the court Pre- 
sently the watchful expression of his countenance changed 
to one of intense earnestness, he bent eagerly forward, and 
there was a stir and movement among the people in the 
hall. It was Heraclus who entered the court, attended by 
his officers, and followed soon after by several others con- 
ducting Symphorian. At the sight of his friend, Victor's 
pale face flushed crimson, and the tears sprang quickly to 
his eyes, but the next moment he brushed them away, and 
pressed his trembling hands tightly together, as if he fain 
would crush the rising grief at his heart. There was a hum 
and murmur of compassion and surprise, not unmixed with 
admiration among the crowd, as the youthful prisoner, heavily 
fettered and surrounded by his guards, entered the court, for 
most of the spectators had come there expecting to see a 
traitor and a malefactor, but they beheld one who looked 
more like a hero. 

Heraclus took his seat at the top of the hall, beneath 
a sort of apse, formed by a marble arch supported on either 
side by two massive pillars. His officers ranged themselves 
to the right and left of the tribunal, the guards stepped 
backwards into a line with the spectators, and Symphorian 
was left alone in the midst. How strangely unlike a cri- 
minal looked the noble youth standing there before that 
expectant multitude, his countenance as happy and as fear- 



SYMPHORIAN. 34 1 

less as if there were no such things in the world as torture 
or death, and the bright sunny clusters of his golden hair, 
rippling like a glory round his head, an earnest of the bright 
crown soon to be placed upon his brows by One, mightier 
and more powerful than all the judges of earth! Faustus 
looked earnestly at him awhile, and then, as many bitter 
thoughts came crowding thick and fast upon him, he wrapt 
his face in the folds of his mantle, and his heart sank within 
him, for he well knew that nothing short of apostasy could 
save his only son from a disgraceful and untimely death. 
He knew that very day would make him childless, — knew 
that henceforth there would be a vacant place beside him, 
in the home that had so long been Symphorian's, — knew 
that ere long, ay, in a few hours, the bright blue eyes that 
had so often met his with their sweet loving smile, would 
be dimmed and darkened by the mists of death ; the hand 
so often clasped in his, cold and rigid as the senseless 
marble around him now, and the sunny curls of his hair all 
dabbled and clotted in blood. 

"My God, my God!" he groaned in the bitterness of his 
grief, "why hast Thou forsaken me? Let this cup pass 
from me, O Lord ; nevertheless — " But the holy words 
died upon his lips, he could not add, like his sorrowing 
Master, " not my will, but Thine be done." 

While thus Faustus struggled with himself, Victor laid his 
hand gently on his arm, and whispered to him in a broken 
voice that Heraclus was going to speak, and almost simul- 
taneously the governor, turning to Symphorian, addressed 
him in these words : — 

" Fair youth, we have summoned you a second time before 
our tribunal to-day, that you may the better learn from our 
lips in cooler moments, what you were three days since too 
obstinate or too proud to heed, in the excitement of that 
folly which you doubtless thought to be heroism. Since 
then, you have, at our commands, suffered the ignominy 
and pain of the scourge, and have lain two days without 
food in the darkness and loneliness of a dungeon. And 
all this we did, not because we desired to prolong your 
sufferings or disgrace, but because we would teach you to 
value more the sweets and delights of the home and the 
friendly companionship you heretofore professed yourself 
so ready to renounce. Consider well, therefore, whether 
you are willing to sacrifice yourself, your happiness, and 
doubtless that of your parents also, for the sake of a Christ, 
who is, as you see, powerless to help you even in this 
distress ; or whether you will not the rather consent to 
secure for yourself many long years of peace and tranquillity, 
by the utterance of a few short words. Your youth, your 



342 gYMPHORIAN. 

beauty, and your station, all of which are so pitiable in 
you as a prisoner, and so ill befit a condemned criminal, 
would serve, were you at liberty, to gain you favour with 
the emperor, and perchance raise you to a high station of 
honour and dignity in the state. I counsel you, then, to 
forsake this folly of Christianity, which can bring you no- 
thing better than death and disgrace, and instead to seek 
the glorious laurels of valour, fame, and wisdom. Take 
my advice, therefore, and save yourself for better things, 
and if you will, I promise not to forget you when I return to 
Rome, and wait upon the imperial Aurelius." 

There was a profound hush of expectation among the 
assembled crowd as the governor ceased speaking, and Sym- 
phorian, raising his head, fixed his glance earnestly upon 
his judge's face and briefly answered, — 

" Think you, noble Heraclus, that it is an honourable thing 
in a judge to whom is committed the care of a province, that 
he should seek to make men traitors to their reason and their 
conscience, by teaching them to prefer such paltry gain as 
these worldly advantages and frivolities, to the true glory 
of acting uprightly and honestly ? Would you have me for- 
swear myself for the sake of such empty hopes as these ? " 

An involuntary murmur of admiration and sympathy 
greeted the noble youth as he ceased, and Heraclus, as 
anxious perhaps to vindicate himself in the opinion of the 
spectators, as to persuade his prisoner, hastened to reply. 

*' You misunderstand my words, young man. Think not 
that I am base and shameless enough to desire that you 
should perjure yourself in order either to save your life, 
or to advance your interests with other men. Far indeed 
be it from me, or any judge, to inculcate such flagrant 
deceit and cowardice. But I would fain convince you of the 
utter folly and impiety of your present course of life, I would 
have you abandon Christianity, because it is hateful and 
detestable to gods and men, because its doctrines are per- 
nicious, and its rites abominable®, — because it is worse than 
distasteful and degrading to noble and upright minds, — 
because it is inimical and hostile to the safety, welfare, and 
happiness of the Emperor's subjects : and if these be not 
sufficient reasons to persuade you of your error, remember 
what obedience you owe as a loyal subject to your imperial 
lord, — what example you, as the son of a decurion, and the 
heir of a noble house, should set to others less noble than 
yourself, and let not your obstinacy or your false pride 
induce you to despise the commands of your Emperor; 
for there is nothing more unworthy or unbecoming one oi 

* The Pagans charged the Christians with the abominations of CEdipus and 
Thyestes. —Jiobcrtson^s Church Hist. 



SYMPHORIAN. 343 

your station, than wilful disobedience to national laws, and 
contempt of rightful power. From such a crime as this I desire 
to save you, and earnestly therefore I exhort and advise you 
to comply with the imperial edict, and do sacrifice to the im- 
mortal gods." 

He paused, and again the sweet tone of Symphorian's 
voice rang like music through the silent hall, as, stretching 
forth his fettered hands towards the tribunal, he made 
answer, — 

" I have already spoken, Heraclus ; cease to argue with 
me, for I cannot obey you. For what hope would remain 
to me, if for the sake of obeying you, I should disobey God, 
and lose my own soul ? Or what self-respect, what peace 
should I possess, did I allow myself to fall into the greatest 
and most dangerous of all crimes ? You promise me treasures 
and riches more perishable and fragile than glass itself, in 
exchange for that wealth which the faithful possess always 
in Christ Jesus, and from which all the revolutions and 
changes of life, ay death itself, can take nothing. But as for 
you, though you should enjoy every advantage the world 
can offer, you can possess nothing in reality ; your ambition 
will never be satisfied, nor your mind left in peace, since 
as you can never be sure of retaining any single thing in 
your hands, you must be always in a perpetual inquietude 
and anxiety." 

" Foolish boy !" broke in the governor impatiently, " I have 
reasoned too long with you. But now your obstinacy and 
impertinence shall not go unpunished. Plautinus,'* he con- 
tinued, turning to his secretary, ** write down the sentence. 
We condemn the prisoner, Symphorian, in accordance with 
the imperial edict, to suffer death by the sword, as a rebel 
against the laws, and an enemy of the gods and the state." 

Scarcely was Symphorian's fate pronounced, than the 
guards advanced to lead him away, while the fickle crowd, 
forgetful of their former sympathy and the compassion they 
had but a few minutes since manifested for the prisoner, 
burst into unrestrained applause at what they now considered 
the justice of the governor's decree. 

The sound of their voices smote like a sharp dagger to the 
heart of Faustus. " Victor, Victor," he groaned in a hoarse 
whisper, " pray for me ; this is more than I can bear. Is 
not this indeed the valley of the shadow of death ? O God, 
O God ! Ae is my only son'* 

The cold drops burst out upon his forehead, and he wrung 
his hands in an agony of grief, as Victor, raising his tearful 
eyes to the decurion s pallid, despairing countenance, answered 
gently, "Jesus said, 'Whoso loveth son or daughter more 
than Me is not worthy of Me.' " 



344 SYMPHORIAN. 

For a moment no answer came but a sigh, deep and 
intensely awful, like the sound of the bitter night -wind 
sweeping over a troubled sea ; and Victor, who had never 
before heard such a sigh, almost trembled for fear he had 
spoken unadvisedly. But as he wondered, the decurion's 
voice, calmer and firmer now, re-assured him. 

"My boy," he said, "you speak truly, for these are the 
vords of the Blessed One : but yet it is a hard struggle to 
part thus. O my God, Thou only knowest how hard — 
ay. Thou indeed knowest, for Thou too hast sorrowed, even 
unto death. Victor," he continued after a moment's pause, 
" come with me ; we will go and stand together by the 
entrance, that I may see him again as he passes ; it will be 
for the last time, and after that we will go home." As he 
spoke these words, he held out his hand almost lovingly 
to his young companion, and for the first time since his 
parting from Symphorian the tears glistened in the decurion's 
eyes, as the boy looked up trustfully into his face. 

They stood beside the doorway of the court, in the shadow 
of the great marble-fluted columns, and as the guards lead- 
ing their prisoner approached, Victor whispered timidly to 
Faustus, " Will you not speak to him, just one word — one 
word of farewell .^" 

But Faustus answered him in a hurried, constrained voice, 
*' No, Victor, I cannot. He needs little the encouragement 
I could give him, and I should but unman myself; it is 
better as it is ; but hush, he is coming." 

And Symphorian passed by, unconscious of the dear pre- 
sence beside him, unconscious of the tearful, earnest eyes 
watching him so lovingly, unconscious of the prayerful 
blessing that was almost agonizing in its tenderness, "God 

in heaven bless thee, my dear, dear son !" 

1* « • • • • • 

We stand without the walls of the town, in the calm, warm 
air of evening, the open country lies before us with its fields, 
and vineyards, and pasture-lands, and here and there some 
nobleman's villa peeping out from the surrounding parks or 
gardens. In the midst, a little winding river — almost name- 
less in modern times — ripples its waters through the bright 
landscape, mirroring in its clear, cool depths the far-off 
glories of the western heavens. And beyond, away in the dis- 
tance, stands the chain of purple hills, bathed in the hazy light 
of sunset, like a golden frame encircling a beautiful picture. 

But what two figures are these, that seem in their sadness 
and silence so strangely ill-set in such a fair and glorious 
scene ? Ah, we need not look long upon that closely-veiled 
lady to know that she is Emilia, and the dark-haired boy 
by her side we recognise at once fo** Victor. But why are 



SYMPHORIAN. 345 

they here at such an hour, waiting beneath the wall of the 
town, and for whom or for what do they watch so anxiously ? 

But we soon cease to wonder, for now we can see a little 
band of soldiers issue from the gates of Boxum, and come 
slowly towards us, their arms and crests glistening and flash- 
ing in the warm light. They are the governor's guards and 
lictors conducting a criminal to the place of execution, which 
is always outside— never within — the walls of the city. 

Ah, me! that so bright, so beautiful a scene, so sweet 
and peaceful an hour, should be disgraced by human cruelty, 
sullied and polluted with human blood ! O fair and glorious 
earth, teeming with all fragrance and brightness, how comes 
it that in the midst of such wondrous loveliness man should 
yet be so unlovely ! 

"They are coming, dear lady, he is coming," whispers 
Victor as the group draws nearer ; and the small white hand 
trembles beneath the dark folds of Emilia's veil, as the sweet 
low voice answers him, " I know it, Victor, my boy is there. 
O God, I beseech Thee, give me grace to love Thy will." 

" Amen," the boy returns reverently. " Do you remember, 
dear lady," he adds, looking up in her face with misty eyes, 
" how only three days since, you told me that all things 
work together for the good of those who are faithful to 
their Lord ? But, oh that it were not so hard, so very hard 
to part !" 

Tremblingly Emilia draws aside the veil that, like a mantle, 
had shrouded her whole form in its graceful drapery, and the 
rich bright glow of the sunlight shines upon her beautiful 
face, as she clasps her hands together, and bursts into words 
of such passionate utterance, that it almost seems as if her 
heart itself must break for very earnestness. 

** O sweet and gracious Lord Jesus," she prays entreatingly, 
'* look with the eyes of Thy compassion upon our anguish 
and bitterness of soul ; and forasmuch as Thou art every- 
where, teach us to behold Thee in all things, and suffer not 
our foolish tears to blind our eyes, and hinder us from know- 
ing Thee, lest we be like the weeping Mary Magdalene, who 
beheld Thee standing beside her, and yet knew Thee not !" 

It is drawing nearer to us now, — that lonely little pro- 
cession of death, and we can see how one walks first with 
uncovered head and fettered hands, and yet withal he seems 
more like a victor celebrating his conquests in a triumph, 
than a criminal going to execution. His eyes ar^e fixed upon 
the bright halo of sunset over the distant hills, and his heart 
is full of still brighter thoughts. We cannot tell what those 
thoughts may be, but that they are sweet and blessed we 
cannot doubt. Perhaps as his eye rests on the fair, flowery 
landscape; sleeping so calmly in the golden mist of sunshine. 



346 SYMPHORIAN. 

he remembers the more glorious light that rests for ever 
upon the far-off hills of Paradise, where the blossoms are 
sweeter than all the flowers of earth, where there is no more 
death nor parting, where " the wicked cease from troubling 
and the weary are at rest." And, even in this terrible hour, 
those dear words of consolation rise to his lips, "In Te, 
Domine, confido, I will not fear what man doeth unto me." 
Then as the holy accents yet linger in his heart like the echo 
of sweet, soft music, a gentle hand is laid upon his arm, and 
Symphorian turns and looks into his mother's face. 

They pause at once, all those rude soldiers, pagans though 
they be, for there is something in this that touches even 
hearts like theirs. And there is silence as she speaks, stand- 
ing before her son tearless, calm, and almost majestic, and 
yet with such a world of love and tenderness in her deep 
eyes, that one could almost fancy her a being from another 
world, the pitying angel of Divine counsel and consolation. 

" My child, my son, Symphorian," she cries, spreading out 
her hands towards the heavens, now all aflame with the 
glories of myriad sunset dyes. " look up thither, and re- 
member the living God, for Whose sake you are called to 
die. Arm yourself, my child, with faith and constancy, 
for so you shall overcome. Oh, why should we fear a tran- 
sient death which leads to eternal life } Lift up your heart, 
Symphorian, and consider Him Who reigns in Heaven. 
The sentence pronounced against you is not to the end 
that you may lose your life, but that you may obtain a 
better ; for whoso giveth himself for Christ, the same shall 
save himself. The way that leads to Paradise is indeed 
strait and rugged, but it is short. If to-day, my son, you 
patiently and faithfully persist, you will pass from earth 
to heaven, and from death to life, to enjoy a happiness 
and glory without limit and without end." 

Another minute, and the last words of parting are said, — 
guards and captive have passed on their way, and Victor 
looking after them, sees dimly through the mist of his tears 
how Symphorian turns to wave his hand towards him in token 
of farewell, — then the flashing crests of the spears have dipped 
into the valley beyond, and he beholds them no more. 

He turns again towards Emilia ; she stands still and 
erect, full in the flood of golden light, her hands clasped 
on her heaving bosom, and her eyes fixed steadfastly on 
something far away. Was it only fancy, or did she really 
hear in the silence of that evening air the distant sound 
of sweet unearthly voices, singing alleluias to the Lamb 
that was slain ? 



C^DMON. 

THE STORY OF A SAXON POET. 




CHAPTER I. 

CiEDMON*S SORROW. 

FAIR, broad tract of land on the coast of Whitby, 
— pastures, farms, and corn-fields ruddy and ripe in 
the glow of the sunset ; behind them high dark woods, 
and before them the open sea. 

And this was the land that Oswio, the seventh and last 
of the Saxon Bredwaldas, gave to the monastery of Hartle- 
pool, when he had overthrown Penda, and won the kingdom 
for his own. And he gave his little daughter, Elfleda, only 
a year old, to the care of the Abbess Hilda, that the child 
might be brought up in the service of God, and be a sister 
in the convent all the days of her life. For so Oswio had 
vowed to do with her on the night before the battle of Win- 
wid, if God should give him the victory ; and now that he 
was king, he kept his word royally, as a king should. And 
the monks and nuns came down from Hartlepool and built 
their abbey at Whitby, on the land that Oswio gave them, 
and sang masses for the pious king day by day, and sowed 
their meadows and tended their kine, and there they laboured 
and prayed in peace for many a long year. 

But that everybody in the convent lived in peace I cannot 
promise you, for though men may shut out the world from 
them, the flesh and the devil are not so easily got rid of ; 
and especially the last of the three, for he, being a spirit, 
can make his way everywhere, even if people wall themselves 
up never so fast. And so, somehow, he got into the monas- 
tery at Whitby, as you shall presently see. 

Now there lived at one of the farm-houses of the monas- 
tery, a poor lay-brother named Caedmon, who had charge 
of the cattle upon the lands. Tall and straight and fair to 
look upon was this Caedmon, with long bright curls rippling 
upon his shoulders after the manner of the baxons, and clear 
eyes of blue that were full of melancholy. And his face was 
the face of an angel in its nobleness and beauty, but for the 
shadow of discontent that rested always upon it, saddening 
his lips and his eyes, and making a cloud of his very smile. 



348 C^DMON : 

Not that Caedmon was unhappy or restless in his vocation, 
for he loved well the life he had chosen, but that he bore 
about in his heart a great unspeakable regret For, like all 
men who love heaven and beautiful things, this poor cattle- 
drover had a soul full of music, and his sorrow was this, that 
though almost all the brotherhood could both play and sing, 
his fingers only had no skill upon the harp, nor his voice 
a note of melody. 

And there was at the monastery a young man of his own 
age, Aldulf, who had once been like him, a labourer at the 
farm-work ; but Aldulf had a sweet voice and a cunning ear 
for harmony, so that the monks had noticed his talent, and 
had taken him in hand. So now he wore a white surplice 
and sang in the choir of the monastery chapel, and looked 
down vastly upon all who had been his fellows at the farm. 
But yet he envied Caedmon and hated him, because of his 
fair face and bright hair, and because he himself was ill- 
favoured. And many times Aldulf heard the monks, who 
happened to know of Caedmon's deficiency, say to each other 
when they saw him, " This youth is full of grace, what a pity 
that God has not given him a voice, for we have not one 
among the choristers to compare with him !" 

So Aldulf s heart was bitter and evil towards Caedmon, be- 
cause of his envy. And whenever he met him it was Aldulf 's 
delight to taunt Caedmon with his defect and insignificance, 
and to boast of his own skill and his importance, and of how 
the monks applauded him. And he would end his unsavoury 
speeches with a sneer, — " But as for thee, Caedmon, thou 
seest thou art fit for nothing but to drive cattle, for thou hast 
no more voice than the frog that croaks in the marshes!" 

But Caedmon was never angry at this, and seldom answered 
him again, for he knew Aldulf spoke the truth, though he 
spoke it harshly enough ; only he took all these sayings to 
heart, and pondered and sorrowed over them in silence. And 
by-and-by he grew moody and discontented with longing 
after the gift he had not, and he went about the farm-lands 
with his- eyes on the ground, and oftentimes tears in them, 
so that all the brotherhood wondered at him. 

But Caedmon had an only sister, Wulfrith, who was a por- 
tress at the convent of the Abbess Hilda, and the Abbess's 
lands lay side by side with the lands of the monastery, so 
that he and Wulfrith often met, and indeed spent much of 
their time together. For when Caedmon's work was over, 
and the cattle driven home to their stalls, Wulfrith used to 
give her keys to her fellow-portress and slip out for an hour 
or two's stroll with her brother in the pleasant pastures ; and 
there they would sit together upon some knoll of smooth 
turf in the light of the sunset, and talk. And Caedmon told 



C^DMON: THE STORY OP A SAXON POET. 



THE STORY OF A SAXON POET. 349 

Wulfrith all his grief and despair, and many times wept in 
the telling of it ; and the little portress did her utmost to act 
the part of consoler, but always in vain, for Wulfrith was the 
only one, besides his spiritual director, to whom Caedmon 
ever confided his sorrow. 

But one evening when the cattle were safely housed, and 
Caedmon was on his way towards the sisterhood in quest of 
Wulfrith, he came by the porch of the monastery chapel, 
and the door was open, for the monks were within chanting 
Vespers. And the deep, sweet sound of the music fell upon 
the ears of Caedmon, and sank down into his heart, so that 
he could not but stay and hear more. And he knelt in the 
porch reverently, with his head bared, listening and praying 
with all his soul, and his thoughts grew big with grief, and 
his eyes dim with heavy tears. 

For he said to himself, " I never may join with these in 
singing God's praises, I never may touch the strings of 
a harp ; but while all the brotherhood are rejoicing together 
and making sweet melodies with the angels in heaven, I 
alone must be dumb and silent as the cattle I tend in the 
meadows." And at the thought his soul died in his breast, 
and he leant his fair head against a pillar of the doorway 
and wept sore. 

But across the pathway of the field came little Wulfrith 
seeking her brother, and when she saw him kneeling in the 
chapel porch, she ran to him and laid her hand on his shoulder 
lightly and tenderly. And she looked in his face with soft 
eyes that love made misty, and spoke in low sweet tones : 
" Caedmon, what aileth thee that thou art so sad V* 

And he made answer, weeping, " O Wulfrith, that I can- 
not sing !" 

Then said Wulfrith, " Brother, be of good cheer, for if that 
be all, it is nothing to weep for. It is sin only that should 
make us weep, and it is no sin of thine that thou canst not 
sing, since God hath withheld the gift from thee. Wherefore 
leave grieving, dear Caedmon, and be not cast down nor 
faint-hearted, but pray more ; for our blessed Lord hath 
bidden us to pray without ceasing, seeing that the things 
we ask shall surely be given us, if we be not weary in the 
asking." 

But Caedmon said, " To what end shall I pray, Wulfrith, 
when God hath denied me this precious gift from my birth ? 
Can I think He will now work a miracle for me, and loosen 
my tongue, or give my fingers skill ?** 

"Who can tell.^" cried the little woman, hopefully ; "but 
at least, brother, if thou prayest for nothing else, pray for 
patience. Maybe the good God even intends to do thee 
a greater grace than He gives to those who can make earthly 



350 c.EDMON : 

music to His honour, for thou canst offer Him the spiritual 
melody of penance. I remember how our venerable mother, 
only the other night, told us that the greatest saints have . 
always suffered hardest denial, and who knows but our Lord 
would make a saint of thee and school thee into holiness 
with this very discipline ? And think when thou feelest it 
sharpest to bear, how that thy silence here will be more than 
recompensed when thou art made one of the choir in heaven ! 
O Caedmon, it will be all the sweeter to thee to join in the 
minstrelsy there, for that thou hast burned so long and so 
ardently to sing upon this earth. I wish we were both sing- 
ing with the angels in heaven now, brother. It must be 
sweeter to hear them than the chapel choir !" 

She turned her head westward, and looked far away across 
the meadows into the broad daffodil pastures of the sunset, 
and the glory smote upon her white floating amice and on 
her uplifted face. And her thoughts went to the sweet mea- 
sure of the choristers* chanting : " For the Lamb which is in 
the midst of the throne shall lead them unto living fountains 
of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." 
And then the notes died away and Vespers were ended, and 
the monks came streaming out of the chapel two and two, 
with heads bent, and pious hands folded palm to palm. 

But Aldulf s bench in the choir was close by the porch, 
and Aldulf had sharp ears when his envy was concerned, so 
that for all his singing he had managed to catch a great 
deal of what VVulfrith had been saying to Caedmon. So he 
fell to thinking about the matter while he sang, and came 
to the conclusion, that unless something were done to correct 
Caedmon's conceit, Wulfrith's argument would surely minister 
to his vanity. *' For," said Aldulf to himself, "this cattle- 
driver will presently take into his head that he is a great 
saint, whom God specially favours with mortification and 
trial, to make a sort of Lazarus of him, while I, like another 
Dives, am perchance to be shut out of Paradise ! I shall take 
this unholy pride of his down a few pegs, and teach him not 
to set himself up above his betters." So with this pious re- 
solve, Aldulf knelt for the priest's blessing, and came out of 
chapel. 

But Caedmon had already gone on a few paces before Al- 
dulf could leave his place, for the choristers came out in 
procession, and his turn was not till near the last. But he 
beckoned to Wulfrith as she turned away to follow her bro- 
ther, and called her by name. So she came back not 
very well pleased, because, though Caedmon did not tell 
her all the ill things Aldulf said of him, still she knew 
they were not friends, and she did not care to talk with 
the choristers. 



THE STORY OF A SAXON POKT. 351 

But Aldulf smiled, and said very mildly, " Has not Csed- 
mon been without in the porch listening^ to our chanting?" 

And when she answered "yes," — '* I did not know he loved 
music so dearly," said he. " Go then, Wulfrith, and tell him 
that if he minds to come to our choir supper in the lower 
refectory to-night, he shall be right welcome, and shall hear 
some goodly minstrels sing. Bid him not forget to come, 
for we shall all expect him. No thanks, sister, — I wish you 
good night, for I cannot stay. For," said Aldulf, as he turned 
on his heel to go, "thou, mistress, who hast ministered to 
his conceit, shalt minister also to his humiliation." 

But Wulfrith ran after her brother and cried, " Caedmon, 
dear, I am sure Aldulf is sorry for his ill words and careth 
for thee at heart after all, for he did not know the greatness 
of thy love for music until now, when he saw thee weeping 
in the porch. And hear what he says, brother, for there is 
a treat in store for thee to-night, and thou must thank him 
for it." So she gave him Aldulf's message. And they stood 
awhile talking about it, till the sun dropped behind the black 
western woods, and the bell at the refectory rang for the 
supper hour. Then Caedmon bade his sister good-bye, and 
went up the avenued path to the monastery. And the 
little portress tripped away merrily through the meadows 
homewards, singing as she went, in the joy of her stainless 
soul. 



CHAPTER II. 

HOW ALDULF HINDERED C^DMON'S VANITY, AND HOW 
CiEDMON DREAMT A WONDERFUL DREAM. 

Now it was a fashion with the Saxons in those old days, 
that after supper was ended, those at the tables who knew 
minstrelsy, should take the harp each in turn, and sing to 
it some improvisatore ballad. And because those who met 
at the choir supper were all musicians, it became a custom 
among them to pass the harp round the board to every one, 
as a matter of course, without so much as asking if he could 
handle it. And Aldulf knew that the lot to sing and play 
would fall to Caedmon in his turn as a guest at the table. 
So he contrived to sit next him that he might have the plea- 
sure of passing the harp to him, and pressing him to sing, 
and so make his disgrace and incapacity more keenly bitter 
to him, and more apparent to others. 

And this was the generous thought that had come into his 
heart as he sang God's praises that night in the chapel ! 

And when Caedmon came in and sat down among the rest 



352 CiEDMON : 

with Aldulf beside him, many of the choristers fixed their 
eyes upon him and whispered one to another, — '* Surely we 
have an angel among us to-night ; didst ever see such a fair 
face, or such a sweet smile ?" And some said, " This is either 
Caedmon, the cattle-drover, or the angel Gabriel ; for Father 
Cynewulf says the two are alike." But Aldulf heard them, 
and his brow grew all the darker, and his heart all the harder, 
and more envious. And when the meal was at an end, Red- 
wald, the choir-master, took the psaltery as usual from its 
place in the corner of the hall, and, bidding the rest be silent, 
he lifted it upon his knee and tuned the strings to his voice. 
Then he ran his practised fingers through the chords, and 
sang a sweet melody to the Giver of all good, and Caedmon 
listened, happy and delighted. 

And when he had finished, the rest applauded, and the 
chorister who sat next took the harp in his turn and sang, 
and then another, and another, — this one a ballad, and that 
one a psalm, — until it came to the lot of Aldulf. And Al- 
dulf*s voice was in fair tune that night, and he was impatient 
besides to shew off his skill and talent before Caedmon, who, 
for all his beauty, must needs be dumb ; so he tossed his 
head, and threw back his lank colourless hair with an air of 
superior mind, and plumed himself like any parrot, till those 
who sat by and watched him began to titter outright. And 
when he had done his part, and acknowledged the applause 
accorded him with a gracious smile, he turned to his victim, 
and, giving him the harp — " It is thy turn now, brother," 
said he. But Caedmon would have passed the harp on to 
the next, only Aldulf laid his hand on his arm to hinder him, 
and spoke again : — " Not so, fair guest, but thou also must 
play to us ; no one passes by the harp who sits at our table." 
Then Caedmon looked up surprised. 

" Nay, Aldulf," he answered, ** but thou knowest I cannot 
tell a note of music." But Aldulf went on in his malice, 
smiling, and loud enough for all the hall to hear. 

" Thou art over modest, Caedmon ; surely thou canst make 
us some sort of minstrelsy, for there is none so ignorant and 
rude of touch, but that he can handle a psaltery at a pinch." 

But Caedmon blushed all over, through his white trans- 
parent skin, for shame, and answered not a word, so sharp 
to him was Aldulf's reproach. Then said one of the cho- 
risters who sat opposite and watched him, — ** Take courage, 
brother, and be not fearful, for with those sweet looks and 
soft eyes of thine I know thou canst sing, and I doubt not 
but thy voice is as pleasant as thy face." And Caedmon 
looked at him who spoke those gentle words, and made re- 
ply with tears, — "Brother, indeed if I could play to you, 
I would at once, and gladly, but my fingers have no skill 



THE STORY OF A SAXON POET. 353 

upon the strings, and I cannot strike a note. And ever since 
I could speak I have loved music, and longed to play, but 
God hath kept the blessing from me." 

Then all the choristers looked at each other surprised, and 
Redwald said : — ** Let him be, brother Aldulf, for this is not 
mannerly, and one can see he speaks the truth, — pass the 
harp on to the next." 

But Aldulfs malice was not yet run out 

" Bear with me, father, a moment more," he cried, " I think 
our fair friend does himself a wrong. For at least, Caedmon," 
he said, turning to him again, — "thou canst sing something, 
even if thou canst not play, and I will accompany thee." 

But Caedmon looked at him piteously. **Do not mock 
me, Aldulf," he pleaded, " thou knowest well that I have no 
voice, and cannot sing." Yet Aldulf would have made even 
more ado, but that Redwald angrily bade him hold his peace, 
and pass the harp on. So he lifted his eyebrows, and drew 
up his shoulders to his ears, but dared say nothing more to 
vex Caedmon. 

But all the choristers wondered at their guest, and began 
to whisper among themselves. And one said, — "This fel- 
low is but an idiot for all his fair face." 

And another, — "What wouldst thou have of a cow-keeper.^ 
let him be, to drive his cattle, for he is fit for nothing better." 

And a third, — ** I had rather have an ill countenance and 
be worth somewhat, than possess the beauty of Absalom and 
be a dolt withaL" 

And Aldulf heard them, and it gladdened his heart, and 
he thought he had gained his end and made Caedmon mean 
in the eyes of the brotherhood, despite his fair looks. For 
he hoped that on the morrow the whole monastery would 
hear of the matter. But Caedmon's ears also had caught 
the gossip of the choristers, and his heart grew so big with 
its burden of shame and sorrow, that he could not bear to 
stay in his place any longer. And so, or ever the next min- 
strel began his theme, Caedmon rose from his seat, and slipped 
out of the hall into the garden. 

And there he leant against a tall beech-tree, and hid his 
fair face in his hands, and wept bitterly and wildly, as though 
his very soul would burst with grief. Then he remembered 
Wulfrith's words and her sweet counsel, and, folding his 
palms together, he strove in the midst of his weeping to pray 
for patience, like the saints. And after awhile he felt more 
at peace, and the stillness of the garden sank into his 
senses like sweet wine, healing and comforting him with its 
fragrance. 

So he went on his way down the avenue, and over the 
pastures, to his own chamber at the farm. 

A a 



354 CyEDMON 



CHAPTER III. 

HOW Ci^DMON DREAMT A WONDERFUL DREAM, AND HOW 
HE SANG TO THE MONKS IN THE REFECTORY. 

And there he bethought him of the words of one of the 
monks, — his confessor ; — " My son, if our Lord had a cross 
to bear, His mother a sword through her heart, and St. Paul 
a thorn in the flesh, dost thou expect to be exempt from 
penance? Pray rather with holy Jesus and Mary — 'Not 
my will, but Thine be done ; be it unto me according to 
Thy word ;' and thou shalt surely hear the King of Martyrs 
answering thee as He answered the Apostle, — * My grace is 
sufficient for thee.*" 

So Caedmon knelt down by his bedside and prayed our 
Lord, with tears, to give him patience and strength accord- 
ding to the pattern of His own, that he might bear his cross 
after Him bravely, however hard and heavy it might be. 
And half the night through he prayed, and wept, and pon- 
dered, by turns, until he fell asleep through weariness ; and 
while he slept God sent him a wondrous dream. 

For in the midst of thb darkness and the stillness of the 
long night, Csedmon heard a sweet voice calling him by 
name. And the voice said : — " Caedmon, sing Me something." 

But he answered, — " I cannot sing ; and for that very cause 
I left the monastery hall to-night, because all the choristers 
mocked at me, and wondered how I could be so foolish and 
unskilled." 

** Yet thou must sing to Me," said the voice ; and it was 
so sweet that Caedmon thought it must needs be the voice 
of the Lord Jesus Himself. 

So he spoke again meekly and patiently : — " O Lord, what 
shall I sing?" 

Then the voice answered him : — " Sing Me the origin of 
things." 

And suddenly there came, as it were, a great flood of light 
into the soul of Caedmon, and his tongue was loosed, and he 
knew that the gift he had longed for was given him at last. 

And the Lord put sweet thoughts and tender rhythm into 
his mind, and taught him in his dream how to handle the 
lyre, and to set his measure to the music of the strings. And 
he sang as the voice had bidden him, of the beginning of all 
things, and of the infinite wonders that God the Maker had 
brought forth out of chaos. 

And when he had made an end of his song he awoke, and 
lo, he remembered it every whit. So Caedmon lay and pon- 
dered over this strange dream in an ecstasy of sweet delight,. 



THE STORY OF A SAXON POET. 355 

until the morning came, and then he rose and gave great 
thanks to God, rejoicing with all his soul for the blessing 
that had come to him. Then he went forth from his cham- 
ber joyfully, to hear mass, and to sing the praise of our dear 
Lord for the first time in his life, at the chapel of the farm. 

And when mass was over, Caedmon went to his confessor, 
and told him of all that had befallen the night before, and 
of the wonderful vision he had had, and the miracle God had 
wrought in him. 

But when the good father had heard, him, he said, "My 
son, be not lifted up with pride at what the Lord hath done 
for thee, neither go about telling every one of thy vision, lest 
thou fall into sin through thy conceit ; but go to thy work 
humbly, and be patient, waiting for what shall come upon 
thee ; for God, Who hath already so highly favoured thee, 
will presently also open a way to bring thy graces to light 
Himself, without thy boasting of them, or going hither and 
thither to make them known." 

So he gave Caedmon his blessing, and sent him away to 
his labour in the meadows for the day. 

But at noon, just as the refectory bell began to ring for 
dinner, Caedmon spied Aldulf coming up to the monastery 
along the pathway of the hill. And when the chorister saw 
Caedmon at his work, he cried, — **Good morrow, fair cow- 
herd ! wilt come to supper again with us to-night ?" 

Then Caedmon bethought himself a moment and answered 
gently, "Ay, good Aldulf, that will I, readily, and thanks 
for thy kindness." 

But Aldulf stopped short and stared at him doubtfully, for 
he thought Caedmon must be bantering, or else distraught. 

"How now.^" said he, **thou wilt come.^ I counsel thee 
rather to keep away, lest Father Redwald censure thee for 
thy presumption. And, indeed, I dare not ask thee to-night, 
for thou knowest it is the Feast of the Holy Name, and the 
fathers are going to sup with us in the long refectory. For 
all of us are to sing an anthem there in honour of the feast, 
and if thou dost not sing with the rest the monks will notice 
thee, and want to know who thou art, and how thou camest 
among us. And when our master, Redwald, sees thee again, 
he will certainly ask who brought thee in, and be angry with 
me when he finds out what I have done." 

But Caedmon only answered him with a mild voice, " So be 
it, then, Aldulf, but yet I will come." 

"Then take the consequences on thine own head, dolt," 
cried the chorister, pale with choler ; ** for I wash mine hands 
of thee, thou art no guest of mine." And Aldulf turned 
away, and went up towards the monastery without another 
word. 

A a 2 



356 C/EDMON : 

But when the supper hour was come, and the long, deep 
woods behind the abbey lands were red with autumn sunset, 
Caedmon made himself ready to go to the refectory. 

And first he went into the farm chapel and knelt awhile 
before the altar, praying that our dear Lord would give him 
grace, and bless the thing he was going to do. Then he 
arose, and signed himself with the sign of the holy cross, 
and went upon his way silent and hopeful. 

But when he came into the upper hall he found all the 
brotherhood assembled, and the choristers, and Father Red- 
wald. And they all wondered at him, and whispered toge- 
ther as he took his place at the long board, but yet none 
spoke a word of rebuke to him, so fair and saintly he was 
to look upon. 

But Aldulf sat sullenly in his place and would not see him, 
for he was angry at his boldness, and marvelled what pos- 
sessed him to come. And when grace was said and supper 
ended. Father Here ward stood up to give a discourse. And 
he spoke of the Feast that they were met to celebrate, and 
of the holy Name of Jesus, and the wonders it had wrought 
among men. And he told how that He who bore that Name 
was the wisdom and the power of God, by whom the whole 
earth was made. "Wherefore," said he, "*hath God highly 
exalted Him, and hath given Him a Name that is above every 
name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of 
things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the 
earth.' For from the beginning of eternity was the Word 
dwelling within the unspeakable light and clear shining of 
the Father, and by His Voice were all things made out of 
darkness and silence and void. And by this Word of God 
was the whole world created, and by this Word of God was 
the whole world saved. So that the Wisdom of the Father, 
which is the holy Name of His Son, is the Alpha and Omega 
of all things, First and Last, Beginning and End.'* 

And much more than this the good priest said, and all the 
brotherhood kept silence and listened reverently. And when 
he had finished talking, he took from beside him the harp, 
and he said, — " Who of you, my brothers, will sing to us of 
this great mystery of the wisdom and the love of God, that 
we may meditate thereon to our soul's comfort .^" 

Then there was silence in all the hall for a little space, and 
the monks looked at one another doubtingly, none liking to 
answer. Then said Father Hereward again, " Is there no 
poet among you, brethren, who will take this harp and play 
us some sweet minstrelsy of praise to Him who made 
us all?" 

And in the middle of the long hall, before all those watch- 
ful monks, Caidmon stood up, tall and beautiful, the crimson 



THE STORY OF A SAXON POET. 357 

blood glowing like flame down his fair face and neck. And 
he put forth his hand to take the harp, and spoke in sweet 
clear tones that rang through the silent hall like the sound 
of silver rain, " Father, by God's grace, I will sing." 

Then they all wondered at him for his tall stature and for 
his noble bearing and loveliness ; and many of the brothers 
who did not know him, said, " Who is this fair stranger, and 
whence comes he, for we have not seen him at our feasts 
before?" 

But Redwald and the choristers were astonished, for they 
knew him to be the cowherd who the last night had refused 
to sing to them, and they whispered among themselves. Yet 
they held their tongues, and none of them rebuked him, be- 
cause they would see the end. Only Aldulf looked across 
the table at him, from under his hard, dark brows, and said 
hoarsely, " Art thou mad, Caedmon ? or hast a devil ?" 

Then Father Hereward bade Caedmon come and fetch the 
harp, and he put it into his hands and said, " Sing on, my 
son." 

So Caedmon sat down on a stool beside the Father at the 
top of the long board, and took the harp upon his knee. 
And he laid his cunning hand across the strings and played 
a soft, low prelude, like the sound of the wind in summer. 
And straightway a great hush and stillness fell upon all the 
monks, for they perceived that their strange guest was a poet 
indeed. 

Then the Spirit of God came upon Caedmon like a whirl- 
wind, and he lifted his voice and sang the song that our Lord 
had taught him in his dream. And he sang of the wisdom 
and the Word of God, and of the origin of all living things, 
and of the making of the world. 

And still he sang, with eyes and voice full of heaven, while 
all that heard him listened breathless, and drank in the sweet 
words with rapture, longing to hear more and more for ever. 
And when he made an end of his song, every man sat silent 
in his place and spoke no word, for very wonder and ecstasy 
of delight. But Redwald and his choir fastened their eyes 
upon him with one accord, amazed at his exceeding grace 
and skill. 

And when Caedmon lifted his eyes and looked about him 
for Aldulf, behold his place was empty, for Aldulf had gone 
forth from the hall in a fit of sickness, through rage and envy 
and astonishment. But none besides Caedmon missed him, 
for all the brothers were intent in thought upon the words 
of that wondrous poem they had heard. Then said Father 
Hereward, " Who art thou, my son ? and who taught thee 
to sing so marvellously?" 

And he made answer, sweetly, " Father, I am a lay brother, 



3S8 C^DMON : 

Caedmon the cowherd, and our Lord taught me to sing only- 
last night ; for until then I knew nothing of minstrelsy, and 
my hand was stiff and untrained, and my voice hard and 
cracked as a toad's. But from my childhood I loved music 
and all musical things, and longed with all my soul's longing 
to be a minstrel, and I prayed the dear God night and day 
for the gift" 

Then, while all the monks sat and listened to him, he 
told them of his vision, and how the Lord had wrought 
a miracle for him, out of His exceeding compassion and 
grace. 

And when Caedmon had ceased speaking, ev^ry one sat 
yet for a little while silently, and gave thanks to Sod in his 
heart. Then Father Hereward said, " Children, let us praise 
the Lord for this wonderful and precious benison wherewith 
He hath blessed our brother. For sith this is the Feast of 
the Holy Name of Jesus, we have an anthem to sing to the 
glory of Him who bare it for us men upon earth amid all 
manner of pain and reproach, and who bears it now in heaven 
through all eternity, praised alike of angels and men. And 
we know that the same Word which in the beginning brought 
light out of darkness, and sweet sounds out of stillness, hath 
to-day spoken unto our brother Caedmon, and taught him 
who was silent to sing His praise." 

And when Hereward had said this, all the brotherhood 
rose to their feet with one accord, and sang together the 
glories of that blessed Name, and Caedmon sang with them, 
full of gratitude and joy. 

And the sound of their singing came through the opened 
doors and casements, and across into the meadow beyond. 
And there stood in the meadow, listening, a little lay sister 
in a black dress and white veil. For Wulfrith had come 
out t# look for her brother, as was her wont, but Caedmon 
had already gone into the farm-house chapel before she could 
find him. So she went into the fields, and wandered up and 
down, fancying he must be yet busy, and hoping he would 
come by-and-by. And while she watched and waited, the 
sun went down, and presently she heard the monks chanting 
in the long refectory. 

Then, being fearful of being late at the convent if she 
waited longer, she turned to go down the hill again home- 
wards, and met Father Cynewulf, Caedmon*s confessor, toil- 
ing up the hill on his staff. 

" Daughter, daughter," said he, shaking his white head 
gravely, and trying to look stern, " make haste, and get thee 
in to supper; it is time for all good Christian maids to be 
in fold." 

** True, dear father," she answered him, with a sly glance 



THE STORY OF A SAXON POET. 359 

out of the comers of her round blue eyes, " and time also 
for thee to be at the refectory. Hark ! they are chanting 
even now." 

" Ay, my child," said the old man, leaning on his staff, and 
panting, " but I have already supped at the farm, having 
much work to do, and these hills are hard to climb when 
one grows old. For little feet like thine they are easy 
enough. Hast thou seen thy brother to-day, Wulfrith .?" 

" Nay, father," she answered, sorrowfully ; " I have waited 
here this hour and have seen nothing of him ; methinks he 
must have gone up again to the refectory. For brother Al- 
dulf, the chorister, father, — " 

" I know, I know all about it, my child, thy brother told 
me this morning. And I may tell thee, Wulfrith, what as 
yet thou knowest not, but soon all the abbey must know of 
it, even this, — that the Lord hath wrought a miracle for thy 
brother, and hath given him skill upon the harp, and a voice 
to sing His praise." And he told Wulfrith all that Caedmon 
had related to him of his dream. 

Then the little portress clapped her hands above her 
head and danced for pure joy. And she cried out, with 
tears in her glistening eyes, ** Oh father ! father ! is it true } 
quite true } Ah, I know it is true, because the dear Lord 
always hears us when we pray to Him, does He not, father.^ 
And I told Caedmon so only yesterday. Oh, I am so very, 
very glad ! and now he will be made a chorister, and sing 
in the chapel choir with Aldulf ! And may I go home and 
tell the sisters all about it, and our mother the abbess V 

" By all means, my child," quoth the old monk, laying his 
hand lovingly upon her veiled head, " and bid them all from 
me give thanks to God for His great grace. And now get 
thee gone, little woman, for the twilight is begun and it is 
very late. Even now I am afraid thou wilt have to eat thy 
supper alone. God bless thee, Wulfrith !" 

So they parted, and Father Cynewulf said to himself as 
he went on his way, " But I am afraid Caedmon will not sing 
in the choir with brother Aldulf yet awhile, for I shall have 
a word or two to say to Aldulf 's director on this matter be- 
fore to-morrow." 



CHAPTER IV. 

HOW CiCDMON AND ALDULF WERE MADE FRIENDS. 

Now when it came to the ears of the Abbess Hilda that 
Wulfrith*s brother had seen a vision and was inspired, she 
sent a messenger to the farm on the morrow to bid the young 



360 CiEDMON : 

man come to the convent and speak with her. So Caedmon 
went up with the messenger, and he brought him into the 
hall of the sisterhood, and the Abbess came out to him there, 
holding the little Princess Elfleda by the hand. She brought 
out a roll of parchment, wherein were copied some verses 
from the books of the holy prophets, which she gave to Caed- 
mon, that he might measure the words into sweet rhythm, 
and set them to music, for the nuns to sing in their chapel. 
For the Abbess would try Caedmon to know whether or not 
he really had this gift of song. But or ever the hour for 
vespers came, Caedmon went up to the convent again with 
the anthem written in his hand. Wulfrith opened the outer 
gate to him, and when she saw it was her brother who stood 
there, she laid her arms about his throat and kissed him for 
joy and delight. So he told her of his dream, and how he 
had sung to the monks in the refectory ; and how he hoped 
soon to be a chorister in the chapel. She prated to him, 
in her turn, about her meeting with Father Cynewulf, and 
of the things he told her, and her being first to tell the 
Abbess what had befallen. Then they kissed again, weep- 
ing for very happiness, and went up to the sisterhood to- 
gether. And Caedmon gave his anthem to the Abbess 
Hilda ; and when she had read it, she fixed her great 
mild eyes upon him, saying, " My son, God hath indeed 
given thee a grand and noble gift, for He hath made 
thee such a poet as our land hath few to match. See that 
thou use this great grace in His service always, without 
wearying or conceit, lest thy Lord, when He cometh, find 
thee sleeping like a faithless and unwise steward. And now 
follow me into the chapel, my son ; there are those waiting 
for us there whom you know." 

So she went out down the long corridor towards the 
chapel, and Caedmon followed her, with little Wulfrith beside 
him, brimful of delight and wonderment. At the door of 
the chapel they found the good Father Cynewulf and Red- 
wald the choirmaster at the monastery ; and Father Cyne- 
wulf held out his hand to Caedmon, smiling, and drew him 
aside gently into the niche of the doorway, letting the 
Abbess and Wulfrith pass by into the chapel. Presently 
vespers began, and the soft low chanting of the nuns ; and 
the incense rose up to the carved, roof overhead, and brake 
in soft clouds, rolling to and fro, until it lost itself among 
the long arches and the mellow glories of the western win- 
dows, like a holy mist of prayer. 

After that, Caedmon*s anthem was sung, and Caedmon 
stood and listened blushing, while the white-haired priest 
Cynewulf clasped his hand in his own all the faster and 
more tenderly, and Father Redwald beat time to the measure 



THE STORY OF A SAXON POET. 361 

with regular-waving arm. When the last notes were sung, 
and they all knelt for benediction, Caedmon's tears dropped 
on the marble pavement like rain, for his soul overflowed 
with love and great thanks, and he thought that after all 
earth must be very nigh to heaven, since men could be so 
happy upon it and God so near them. 

Then Father Redwald called Caedmon and brought him 
to the Abbess, saying, " Venerable Mother, I shall take this 
young man to the monastery this very hour, to do with him 
as I told thee, knowing that our Lord hath highly blessed 
him, and that all the brotherhood will make him welcome, 
because the Spirit of God is upon him." 

At that the Abbess smiled and took Caedmon by the hand, 
and kissing him on either cheek, ** Therefore God be gracious 
unto thee, my son," said she. 

Then she put the copy of Caedmon's anthem into Red- 
wald's hand, and he bade the young man take his leave of 
the Abbess and come with him, for that he and Father 
Cynewulf had been bidden to bring him to the monastery. 

So Caedmon knelt a moment for the mother's blessing, and 
kissed his sister Wulfrith, who bade him God speed, and 
then the chapel door closed after them and they were gone. 

But the Fathers Redwald and Cynewulf took Caedmon 
with them to the monastery and went into the upper hall, 
where they found all the brotherhood gathered together 
awaiting their coming. And when Caedmon came in. Father 
Hereward stood forth from among the monks, and taking 
his hand in his own, he looked full in his fair face and 
asked him : " Brother Caedmon, what sayest thou, — wilt 
thou be one of us, and leave thy herds and kine, and thy 
farmhouse, to live in the monastery among us, to be a priest 
of God, and a father to others who are poorer and weaker 
than thou ? For the Lord hath plainly shewed us how that 
He singularly loveth thee, and hath chosen thee to be His, 
by pouring out His Spirit upon thine head, and by giving 
thee this great and wonderful gift. Wherefore, brother, we 
are met here together to entreat thee earnestly in His most 
holy Name, that thou refuse not to join us, and to edify us 
by thy genius, thy sweet doctrine, and power of song." 

Then Caedmon made the sign of the cross upon his fore- 
head and breast, and answered with great joy in his soul : 
'* Father, in the name of the blessed Trinity I will take upon 
me this high estate, and dwell among you all the days of my 
life, that I may be a priest at the altar to sing God's praises, 
and to be a father to those who are poor and sorrowful, as 
I have been. So may God send me His sweet grace." Then 
all the monks answered and said, " Amen." 

And now I am glad that my story ends pleasantly, as all 



362 C^DMON : 

stories ought to do. But as all things do not come smooth 
and even at once in most people's histories, so neither did 
they in the case of the poet-monk. For though Caedmon 
had won himself the love and reverence of all the fathers, 
and though the Abbess Hilda and her nuns took him for 
nothing less than a prophet, yet there was one in the abbey 
who envied and hated him with a great spite, and longed to 
do him a mischief: that one was Aldulf the chorister. 

And when it was told Aldulf that evening what the monks 
had done for Caedmon ; how he was to become a member 
of their confraternity, and be a priest instead of a cowherd, 
he was like to burst with madness of rage and jealousy. But 
he dared not open his lips to say a word against Caedmon, 
because all in the monastery admired and loved him, and he 
knew that if he maligned him he should only bring a curse 
upon his own head. So he swallowed his anger as best he 
might, and turned sullen and morose over his fancied wrong, 
petting it like a cherished serpent, that in return poisoned 
all the joy of his heart with its baneful breath. 

But the next day was not over before his companions 
of the choir, and the monks who saw Aldulf, had noticed 
his silent mood and bent brows, and they wondered among 
themselves what ailed him. When it was the time for ves- 
pers, and the choristers were ready in the choir waiting for 
the beginning of service, came Father Redwald and brought 
them Caedmon's anthem, and would have them sing it in the 
chapel for the fathers to hear. 

And all the choristers were glad, and they sang with good 
heart and clear loud voices — all of them save Aldulf, who 
stood still in his place frowning, and would not utter a word. 
For he said to himself, " I will sing no anthem of this cattle- 
drover's." 

After the service, when the choristers were gone out of the 
chapel. Father Redwald followed Aldulf as he went towards 
the hill, walking moodily apart from the rest And he 
touched him upon the shoulder, saying, "What ailed thee, 
Aldulf, that thou wouldst not sing the anthem to-night with 
the others .^" But Aldulf gave him no answer. 

Now Father Redwald was Aldult's director as well as his 
master, and Aldulf had kept all this hatred and spite of his 
a secret even from him, because he was a'shamed of it, and 
knew the good monk would blame him. But Father Cyne- 
wulf had told Redwald of the matter, having heard it from 
Caedmon, and perceiving how wretched poor Aldulf was 
making himself through his own ill-humour and bitterness. 

So when Father Redwald saw that Aldulf was silent, he 
drew him aside to a bench that was beside the pathway, be- 
neath the shadow of a tall cedar, and bade him sit there with 



THE STORY OF A SAXON POET. 363 

him. Then he said : " My son, I know that thy thoughts 
are full of un-christian fancies and dreams that the evil one 
hath put into thine head, and hath kept thee back from tell- 
ing me, to make thee miserable and to vex thine heart 
withal. Wherefore now, my son, hide nothing from me, but 
open unto me this sin and grief of thine, that I may appoint 
thee some wholesome penance, and give thee the consolation 
of God's sweet peace." But yet Aldulf held his tongue, and 
turned away his head proudly, for he was angry and full of 
scorn. 

Then Father Redwald caught him by the hand and spoke 
very earnestly : " O child, child, why wilt thou be so foolish 
and wayward against thine own comfort ? Have I any cause 
to entreat thee except it be for thy blessing and the glory 
of God ? How is it thou lovest this festering plague-spot of sin 
better than the sweet odour of heavenly grace ? Dost thou 
not know, my son, that every one who wilfully abides in sin, 
is before God as a corpse that hath been long dead, savour- 
ing of corruption and all manner of foulness ? But he who 
does penance and returns to the service of the Lord, becomes 
like an offering of incense, sweetening his own soul and the 
souls of others with the fragrant odour of his good example. 
Wilt thou not, Aldulf, be rather found a clean offering in 
God's sight than a putrid corpse of unholiness ? Son,^ son, 
I entreat thee as thy spiritual father, be reconciled to our 
dear Lord in the sacrament I offer thee. See how He looks 
at thee from the cross hanging at thy girdle, with His loving 
hands spread wide to receive thee, and all his immaculate 
body pitifully torn and wounded for thy sake! Wilt thou 
let Him suffer yet more pain, Aldulf, by rejecting and con- 
temning His compassionate love and His embraces, when 
He hath borne all this agony of penance for thee ?" 

Then Aldulf turned his head, looking into Father Red- 
wald's face, and saw that his grey eyes were filled with tears. 
And the chorister's hard soul melted within him as snow 
melts in the sunlight, and he fell on his knees before the 
good priest and confessed every whit of his sin, weeping sore. 

When he had ended. Father Redwald laid his hand on 
his head and said, " My son, the things thou hast told me 
are very sad to hear, and thou hast done foolishly, but even 
so God gives more grace. For there is more rejoicing among 
the angels over the soul that hath sinned and is forgiven, 
than over the saint who went not astray ; and I have heard 
some of the fathers say they almost envy their penitents, so 
great a grace is it to have true compunction for one's ill 
doings. But for all thou art forgiven, I must set thee a pen- 
ance to do, that thou mayest not forget how thou hast 
grieved the dear Lord and wounded thine own soul. Neither 



364 ' CiEDMON : 

shall thy penance be an idle one, Aldulf, for thou must leave 
the choir for awhile and tend Caedmon's kine in his place, 
until one be found among the lay brothers to take the 
charge from thee. Now go and find him whom thou hast 
so grievously ill-treated, and ask his pardon for thine evil 
deeds, and the pardon of his sister Wulfrith, whom thou hast 
also wronged." 

So he gave Aldulf absolution and his blessing, then left 
him and went upon his way to the monastery, and Aldulf 
upon his to find Caedmon. Presently he saw Caedmon walk- 
ing in the garden among the flowers, and Wulfrith was with 
him. And when Aldulf saw them he stood still for a moment, 
praying for courage and grace to confess his fault like a man. 
And our Lord heard him, and sent a great strength into his 
soul, so that he came forth bravely and went to meet Caed- 
mon, saying, " Brother Caedmon, I am come to ask pardon 
of thee and of Wulfrith for all the evil I have wrought you, 
and the sharp words I have spoken. I have confessed all 
to Father Redwald, and am absolved from my sin, but 
now I am come to ask forgiveness also of thee." 

Then Caedmon put out both his hands, and caught him 
round the neck, kissing him with all his heart. And when 
he could speak for joy he forgave him gladly and freely ; 
and as for Wulfrith, her cup of happiness so overflowed at 
the sight of Aldulf 's penitence that she could not say a word 
for weeping. 

And then they all three wandered about in the garden 
together, plucking the sweet flowers and talking, until the 
refectory bell rang for supper. Then Wulfrith bade them 
good-bye and ran off" to her convent, and Caedmon and Al- 
dulf went into the monastery hall side by side. 

But Aldulf told his friend nothing about his penance, for 
he thought it would make Caedmon sorry. 

On the morrow Aldulf put on the habit of a cowherd, and 
went down to the farm to take care of Caedmon's kine ; all 
day long he tended them in the pastures, and at night he 
slept in the farm-house, until Father Redwald found another 
among the peasants on the abbey lands to take Caedmon's 
work, and sent Aldulf back to his choir. 

After that, all things went well and pleasantly in the mo- 
nastery, and the days were full of peace, and Aldulf wore his 
white robes again, and sang in the chapel better than ever 
he sang before ; but every one noticed that when Caedmon's 
anthems were sung it was Aldulf's voice that was highest 
and clearest of all. 

In due time Caedmon was made a priest, and took the 
holy vows at God's altar, and became a father in the abbey, 
beloved and revered of all the brotherhood. The Spirit of 



THE STORY OF A SAXON POET. 365 

God rested upon Caedmon and upon all his labours ; and 
many a long year he dwelt there in peace, a holy man, teach- 
ing, and singing the praises of our Lord, until he died in the 
year of grace 680. 

And because he was the first poet of our country whose 
name has found a place in its records, we have given him 
a title of great honour which will carry his memory on to 
all ages of English literature, making him in some sort the 
patron of our national psalmody, and enshrining the legend 
of his life among the many beautiful stories which belong 
exclusively to the Age of Saints. For Caedmon is called to 
this day, " The Father of English Song." 



-•♦- 



ipnnit}) b]{ |ame9 ^othtx ttnb Co., Crobn-swrb, #i{ot2^. 



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